Expected Publication: December 24th, 2013
By: Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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 the change, it suddenly seems the only people that Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives...and each other. Even though they've never met.
Elizabeth (called EB by her friends) is really excited to finally be leaving for college in just a couple short months. So when she gets her roommate assignment, EB shoots of an e-mail to figure out who's bringing what. Lauren on the other hand is less than thrilled with having a roommate, as she had originally requested a single. Coming from a home with five younger brothers and sisters, all Lauren wants is to go to Berkeley and get some peace, quiet and freedom. When EB contacts her Lauren is busy working, being babysitter to her siblings and trying to keep her friendships afloat even though she doesn't have time to be involved with all the technology her friends use as a lifeline - especially her best friend Zoe. At first the girls get off on the wrong foot, but when they really start responding to each other both EB and Lauren come to rely on one another as sounding boards - and friends. With complicated guy and family situations can EB and Lauren make the right decisions and manage to become the people they need to be?
I really enjoyed reading this book! I went into it expecting it to be a pretty good read, but braced for disappointment. It takes a really great writer to work with a partner and not come up with a mediocre book. It's all about the flow and style of the narrative being smooth, while still having distinctive characters, etc. so that not everything sounds exactly the same. EB is an only child who lives with her Mom, after her Dad walked out on them when she was five. Turns out he was gay and didn't want to pretend anymore. Not that her Mom is perfect either, having affairs with married men and always being gone from the apartment. Everything is changing with E.B.'s friends too, who are all staying close by for college. She breaks up with her boyfriend who is pressuring her for sex, only to find herself attracted to a landscaping client's son. Lauren is the opposite, trying to figure out her romantic feelings for her co-worker Keyon, searching Goodwill for antiques they can flip, babysitting her five siblings and working for money she's going to need at college. I could appreciate EB's inability to admit how she felt, her mixed feelings towards her Mom (who she loves, even if she is distant and doing the morally wrong thing more often than not). I identified with Lauren's struggle to separate her identity from her place in the family. Both girls were written extremely real.
That old saying that it's easier to talk to a stranger is really well demonstrated in this book. Neither girl really knows how to connect at first, but they can't talk about their problems with anyone else. So they unload on each other. But both of them are conflicted about becoming friends that way, before they've ever even met each other. They still kind of resent each other as well, for being so involved. EB even retaliates when Lauren looks up her estranged Dad's art gallery in San Francisco and finds out something hurtful. Lauren decides to tell EB anyway and the anger gets focused on her instead. The romantic relationship between Lauren and Keyon was very 'first love' in it's hesitation and shy newness. It was nice to have such an innocent relationship in a YA book. I did like EB's relationship with Mark, but it felt really whirlwind and insta-love to me. Yes, his character was awesome. But I felt like the "I love you" mentality was way unrealistic. Overall, this is a book about friendships (old and new), family, romance and learning how to balance them all while dealing with the change of growing up. I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it, whether you're already a fan of Zarr or Altebrando, or both even.
VERDICT: 4/5 Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is December 24th, 2013.*