Book review: Roomies by Sara Zarr And Tara Altebrando

7 Sep

ROOMIESWhen Elizabeth receives her first-year roommate assignment at the beginning of summer, she shoots off an email to coordinate the basics: TV, microwave, mini-fridge. She can’t wait to escape her New Jersey beach town – and her mum – and start life afresh in California.

 That first note to Lauren in San Francisco comes as a surprise; she had requested a single. But if Lauren’s learned anything from being the oldest of six, it’s that you don’t always get what you want, especially when what you want is privacy.

 Soon the girls are emailing back and forth, sharing secrets even though they’ve never met. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives … and each other.

Roomies is a brilliant book, perfectly capturing that awkward time before going off to university/college and when you’re waiting for a major life change. I think this novel will appeal to a lot of readers as it’s not just about meeting your room mate for the first time but about growing up, gaining independence and leaving home for the first time; topics we can all relate to at different stages.

The story is told over a single summer as Lauren and Elizabeth (known as EB) get their college room mate allocations and make first contact. I found it fascinating and brilliantly realistic how the two girls reacted to each other over email and what it said about their characters. Elizabeth is an only child and lives with her Mum in New Jersey. Lauren is the complete opposite in terms of family set up and lives in San Franciso with her large family and very lovely mum and dad.

As the girls clearly illustrate, there are pros and cons to both set ups and I thought their attempts not to judge each other were brilliant. Interestingly, we are also privy to their own thoughts in sections written in first person narrative so can clearly see what has been filtered! I enjoyed the way this gave a rounded perspective on the dramas of both their lives, really showing their hopes and fears about the future and starting college.

I thought both girls were great characters but found myself slightly more drawn to Lauren, perhaps because her family set up was more similar to my own? Lauren’s parents are brilliant characters and now top my list of fab fictional mums and dads. There was one scene between Lauren and her Dad that actually made me well up and I loved that they were so realistically written.

There’s plenty to hold readers’ attention in Roomies with sub plots about parents, work and boyfriends and some great twists that kept me engaged. The book has a great romance element as each girl meets someone she cares for at seemingly the wrong time. I could easily have carried on reading about Lauren and EB and would I’d love a follow up to see what happened next!

One for fans of Keris Stainton, Rainbow Rowell and Jennifer E Smith, Roomies is funny, insightful and heartwarming making a clear point that whether you are moving across the country or just down the road, single or coupled up, from a close family or not; change is stressful and its ok to panic a bit! A lovely coming of age novel and I look forward to reading more from these authors.


Roomies is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel via Bookbridgr.

Find out more about Sara Zarr and her writing at:

Find out more about Tara Altebrando and her novels at:




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