Yes? No? Maybe So?

Roomies - Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando

Roommates do not need to be best friends.

- Getting to Know Your Roommate


So this was pretty interesting. 

Roomies delves into a very specific and yet underexplored relationship territory in New Adult Contemporaries. Well I suppose it does get some attention, usually presented peripherally with the supportive-quirky-roommate of the heroine, but not usually as the focal point of the story. What sets this further apart is that the entire book is about the time BEFORE either characters become actual roommates. So it's more of two strangers with that awkward situation that looks a lot like friendship but is really more about harmonious cohabitation looming ahead of them and the events that led up to it.

Because The College Roommate is quite a distinct animal. I mean it feels a lot circumstantial friendship, but you live long enough with that person that there would be days that would make it seem like she's your best friend, your worst enemy, your mother, your priest, your personal bully… So I understand both these girls' anxiety towards each other and the gravity of the things that happen to them before all that takes place. 

This was told in the alternating points of view of Elizabeth (Ebb) from New Jersey, Lauren (Lo) from San Francisco, the opposite lives they lead and the unifying issue of change in those particular lives. Ebb comes from family of one with her mom and not with her gay dad, yes she leads the soap opera lifestyle. Lauren on the other hand leads the charmed and raucous life of coming from a family of 8. Both can't seem to wait to get out of their routinely teenage problems and get a fresh start. Until boys and parental issues came into both their pictures and complicated things. The story moves along through their exchanges of increasingly personal details in their lives with one's current dilemma situation propelling the other to examine her own. 

I liked that it was quite a new dynamic to look into and presented some interesting insight on the ethics of internet stalking (because, let's face it, everyone does it). It was a gradual progression and the email correspondence between the two of them was realistically paced and worded. From awkward online acquaintances to reluctant virtual confidants. Both ends are dealing with unique dramatic turns in their lives, (because much as we'd like to forget, at that age, we do like to drama. A lot) and I really liked how this captures that developmental checkpoint where we start to see our parents as peer than superior, wiser beings holding all the answers to our questions. That bittersweet moment when you realize they are just as vulnerable as you, make wrong presumptions and commit stupid mistakes just like you and how that relationship evolves without losing trust and respect.


Take care of the relationships in front of you now. Most friendships have a natural life and when they live that out, you'll know.


Seeing as this takes place at a point of drastic change in their lives, there was much tension from the temporary nature of both girls' newfound relationships. I should gripe about Keyon and Mark but they served their purposes in the story quite adorably. They are both such girls, I swear.

I did feel Mark and Ebb's situation teetered a bit to close on soap territory which was a bit of a contrast to the seemingly realistic feel of Keyon and Lauren's who are dealing with the implications of interracial dating. Though thankfully, both couples handled their issues in a very pragmatic manner. I am a little bit more charmed by Keyon's quirks though (Pro Tip: knowing the words to The Lion King Soundtrack willalways get you the right kind of girl) and there's some heartfelt sentiments between them that makes you hope they'd end up married somewhere down the line just so they could have family barbecues together (both their dads are way too awesome for them not to be best buds).


I look forward to a million adventures with him, even if they never happen, even if we only manage a few.


Can I get an…

My one complaint is that I had a hard time keeping track of who's who in the story. I literally have to make a table between Ebb and Lo just to remember who has this best friend and which one gave up her v-card. Maybe it's the generic names or maybe the contrast between their voices is not too sharp. This was written by two authors, and I'm not familiar with either their backlist so I'm not sure how similar their writing styles are. If one author wrote for one girl, I fail to make that distinction and I'm not sure if that's a pro or a con in this case but it certainly bugged me when I set the book aside for a while and pick it up again feeling a little lost and confuzzled. I liked that bit of believability on how things stands at the moment for both couples but being as old as me and having my fair share of Long Distance Relationships I kinda want to preemptively comfort and hug one girl and congratulate the other. I do feel like some messages were better cut across than others and both story lines don't fit as perfect opposites nor parallels of each other which again adds to the believability, though the tight delivery may have suffered a little.

I read this on the heels of a massive book hangover and for a mellow and character driven read, this accomplished what it set out to do with very minor scratches and dents on the way.

Taking a page from Lo and Ebb:

Yes: The Lion King. Bakelite. Nice boys. Cute kids. Veronica Mars.
No: Soapy drama. Teen Angst. Asshole parents.
(huh, I guess I'm pretty obvious which half I enjoyed better)
Maybe So: New Adult without the Graphic Sex? (it changes by the hour)

ARC provided by Little Brown and Co. thru NetGalley in Exchange for an unbiased review. Quotes may not appear in the final edition.