Recently graduated from high school and hoping to pursue a career in landscape architecture, Elizabeth Owens can’t wait to leave New Jersey for college at Berkeley. Lauren Collins, who already lives in San Francisco, wants escape, too, and has requested a single room for the privacy, solitude, and novelty of no longer having to share space with anyone, especially her five siblings, six and under. So, when Lauren learns her request has been denied and receives a “Hi, Roomie” email from EB inquiring about microwaves and mini-fridges, her reply is cool and somewhat curt. A bit certain about EB’s warm overtures, Lauren aspires to work in a lab, sterile, quiet, and isolated.
On the surface, the girls don’t share many similarities: Elizabeth, an only child whose parents are divorced, surfs and lives in luxury compared to Lauren’s family, for whom “going over a bridge counts as an exotic vacation” (31) and Saturday morning shopping at Trader Joes qualifies as quality family time. Between the lines of their email volleying rest a lot of assumptions and stereotyping about one another at first, but as their emails continue throughout the summer, they discover they actually share many fears and insecurities about change and about relationships. Both “leaving home for the first time, scared, excited, imperfect, and trying to figure it all out” (254), they come to realize the value of having “someone on the outside who could look in with a different perspective” (252). As their familiarity increases and their sharing of information deepens, they not only confront areas of incompatibility but encounter complexities and complications regarding too much information or when keeping a secret becomes a lie.
With Roomies, Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando collaborate to author a poignant and realistic story about two strangers whose relationship starts on the rocks, then ebbs and flows into a one that enlarges and transforms both their lives. In the novel, readers will find themselves reflected in the complexities of family, the challenges of relationships, the disequilibrium of change, and the familiarity of betrayal.
- Posted by Donna