Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof
Audience: Ages 16 to 19
Expected Publication: December 24, 2013
It's the summer after high school graduation and New Jersey native Elizabeth is looking forward to moving out to California to attend school at Berkley. Meanwhile, San Francisco native Lauren is looking forward to the independence of college and escaping her large family. When Elizabeth finds out that Lauren will be her roommate, an exchange of emails leads to what could be a great relationship, or complete roommate failure. Both girls have hesitations about college, friends, and boyfriends, and it seems like the only person they can talk to is thousands of miles away. Roomies captures all the highs and lows of preparing for college in one touching story.
Let's work piece by piece. Elizabeth wants to get away from her mother-now! She has some high school friends that are becoming more distant and she is so ready to leave her boyfriend. Then a landscaping job leads her to Mark, a fun, attractive guy that she really falls for. Elizabeth is at some points spoiled and whiny, but at others very vulnerable and honest. She wants to move away from everything she knows, but it's terrifying at the same time. Very true to life.
Lauren, on the other hand, is not at all spoiled. As the oldest of five kids, she is used to playing parent, and she is working her way through college. She thinks that Elizabeth must be some rich little snob coming out to California for school, but she does learn otherwise. Lauren has always hidden behind her family in a way, but once she gets to know Keyon a little better, she can't hide anymore and realizes that she likes him more than she knows. Again, all Lauren wants is independence until she has it, then she misses her large family terribly. Also, very true.
I really do understand being able to communicate more honestly with someone that you do not really know. There is something to liberating about sharing a secret, even if you share it with someone in a different time zone. Both of these girls have secrets to share and struggles to work out. Plus, starting college is very difficult and they are both dealing with the way that changes relationships.
When I told my husband how this book ended, he asked if there would be a sequel. I sincerely hope not. The main point of Roomies isn't the relationship between Elizabeth and Lauren or the girls and their respective boyfriends, but about discovering who you are in the space between the relative safety of high school and the independence of college. Any continuation of the story would feel bland in comparison.
Here's another question: Could Roomies be considered New Adult? I say yes. This book is about having a new experience and growing up considerably because of it. Granted, there is a distinct lack of explicit sexual detail, but Elizabeth does responsibly have sex, and that's quite natural. Rather than give all the saucy details, just let readers know this is what happened, these were the consequences, and now we move on.
I loved Roomies. I truly did. I felt like it captured the transition from high school to college very well, with plenty of other action added to the mix. Give this to a reader about to embark on a new adventure.