Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando Review {with Audiobook Notes}

Posted April 8, 2014 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 4 Comments

Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: December 24, 2013

279 Pages
Source: Book – Publisher, Audiobook – Library
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

It’s time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl’s summer — and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. 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. Even though they’ve never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.
 (from Goodreads) 

Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

My Thoughts:  I have read and re-read Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, and I loved the book both times I read it. The first time was a print read; the second time was a print + audiobook read/listen. It is just FUN. 


Elizabeth (EB) is so excited when she receives her college roommate assignment for Berkeley – she pretty much immediately emails her new roommate, Lauren, to introduce herself and to start working out the details: the getting-to-know-you’s, what to bring, stuff like that. She is a little bit surprised or maybe bummed out when it takes a while for Lauren to email her back. Elizabeth lives with her mother in New Jersey; her father lives in San Francisco near where she will be attending college. She has not seen him for many years and is a little curious to find out if she can re-acquaint herself with him. She has a summer job in landscaping and it is while working that she meets the boy that will become her summer fling. 

Lauren lives in San Francisco, the oldest of a house full of siblings. She spends nearly all of her free time helping her parents take care of the house as well as her younger brothers and sisters. When Lauren finally sits down to check her email, it doesn’t surprise her that she has several days’ worth in her inbox. The email from Elizabeth catches her eye so she reads it right away…and she is quite taken aback by the energy that leaps out from it. After all, Lauren craves peace and quiet, and Elizabeth’s HEY HOW ARE YOU ROOMIE?! email practically leaps out of the computer and screams at her. Lauren is disappointed because she requested a single room – a request that was obviously denied – which means she will move from sharing a room with two of her young siblings straight into sharing a room with a total stranger. Lauren works at a local sandwich shop, which is where she meets her summer fling. 


Roomies takes place over the summer between high school graduation and Moving-In Day at Berkeley, where EB and Lauren will be attending college together. The entire story is alternating points-of-view narrative with a ton of emails mixed in, from both girls’ perspectives. It is quirky and funny and the girls are sometimes annoying and selfish, and they of course have a ridiculous fight because there isn’t total honesty about a pretty big issue that connects them, but overall I think the story is fantastic because it is also a study of friendship and coming-of-age and heartache (both romantic and real-life). I love that it is written between these two people that do not know each other, but are getting to know each other, because it is this way that we see EB and Lauren strip down and become objective and real. Sometimes it is much easier to talk to people over email, to long-distance friends. It just is. 

About EB, I loved that she was outdoorsy and outgoing, but my heart broke for her with regard to some issues she had with her family, with both her mother and her father. I think her family problems were part of the reason she was moving all of the way across the country from New Jersey to San Francisco to college, and I felt sad for her single mother when she moved. EB also had some issues with honesty. As far as her summer romance went, I loved it. I love the crush in the beginning and I loved how it developed over the summer. When the summer ended, however, I felt like it just…fell off. The romance didn’t end, but I wish I knew a little bit more

About Lauren, I love that she came from a large family and that she loved them so much. I LOVED THAT. I love that she felt so deeply for her parents, and that part was written so well. I loved that she felt a deep craving for a peaceful, quiet space to call her own – I felt that part of the story was very well-written, and I felt her emotions at war on the pages – disappointment in not getting the single room vs. a slow, reluctant excitement over having this new roommate. I found it unusual that Lauren was so reactive about moving such a short distance away from home (I drive that far across town nearly daily, but I realize we all have different lives and geography). I chuckled at Lauren’s nonchalance at smartphones, Facebook, and email (where Elizabeth practically lived on technology and social media). Lauren also struggled a little bit with honesty. As far as her summer romance went, I liked it and felt like it ended in a little bit of a better place than Elizabeth’s did, but again I wish I knew just a little bit more

Both girls’ struggle with honesty was very interesting in the story because with both girls, there were secrets from others and secrets from each other – naturally some excitement is bound to happen here and as a result, coming-of-age. YAY! Also, the girls were on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as technology is concerned, so the impatience we can see EB have with Lauren’s slow responses to her emails is funny (to us) but causes a lot of snarky inner thinking and even a few snarky exchanges. Both girls have ups and downs, and both girls have questions or issues that are bothering them that they discuss with the other one. I love that they asked advice from one another about these things, because they’re kind of big-deal things (or at least they are to me), and that helped to establish trust between them. The answers were not always what they wanted to hear and there were bumps along the way throughout the summer, but I think that by the end of the summer, by the time they had arrived at school, they were already friends and had already survived more than most college roommates have in the beginning. 

I love the structure of the book, the alternating POV’s with the emails. I love the realistic way the girls were written: good moods, bad moods, snarky, sweet, sometimes close-minded, sometimes open-minded, always with questions. I love how different they were. I WISH WE COULD SEE HOW THEY HAVE ADJUSTED AFTER LIVING TOGETHER FOR A LITTLE WHILE. I WISH, I WISH, I WISH. Did their different different views on technology and the need for it survive being roommates? How did being raised differently contribute to being roommates? What about EB’s parent problems? Does Lauren become truly independent of her family since she still lives so close to home? What happens with these boys and the romances? I KNOW I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE THAT WANTS TO KNOW. 

Audiobook NotesThe audiobook format of Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando is published by Hachette Audio and is 7 hours, 55 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Becca Battoe and Emily Eiden. This was my first time with each of the narrators and I think they did a pretty great job with the voices of young girls – they nailed the snark and the excitement and the irritation well. This was a fun audiobook for a light read and I recommend it for first listens or re-reads. 

I recommend Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando to fans of Young Adult Contemporary with light romance, for fans of summer reads, and for fans of coming-of-age stories. I think this book technically would qualify as part of the New Adult category, but it definitely had more of a YA feel to it despite having plenty of talk of grown-up issues. 


Roomies will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary 
Romance: Each POV has a romance. No triangles. 
Sibling/Family Relationships
Alternating POV


Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for these very laid-back thoughts and they are my own! Thank you Little, Brown BYR! 


Have you read ROOMIES yet?

What is your favorite Sara Zarr or Tara Altebrando book?
This is my first for both of these authors!


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


4 responses to “Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando Review {with Audiobook Notes}

  1. While I enjoyed this story (and the students I passed it to also really liked it), I agree — I really wanted to see how they did AFTER moving in together and how they survived that first tumultuous quarter/semester/year.

  2. I NEED to read this one! I'd love to see the exchanges between the two since they seem like polar opposites and get a taste of their lives and their growing dynamic. The only thing is the fact that you said we don't get to see them AFTER. Some people don't like epilogues, but that would be a perfect time!

  3. I still haven't read this one! I do have an ARC of it, lent to me by Rachel of Hello Chelly, but I just haven't gotten around to it. I really should though because I LOVE that it's about two girls who will be future roomies AND that they each have their own stories to tell!

  4. I am SOOOOO with you on wishing for a little more with that ending! While I get why it ended the way that it did, it left me feeling a little flat on the book because it seemed like that was the climax and there was no real resolution. Not that things were left completely hanging – I just think it would have been nice to see a little bit further into their lives. But alas! It was still a fun read thought 🙂

Leave a Reply

Want to include a link to one of your blog posts below your comment? Enter your URL in the website field, then click the button below to get started.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.