A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was provided by Little Brown & Co in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!) My review was in no way influenced by this consideration.
I loved Roomies. Remember when you were a high-school grad, getting everything ready to go off to college, and you got that letter? The one that told you who your roommate would be? There was so much anticipation wrapped up in that letter, for me. What would she be like? Would she be fun? Would she be weird? Would we be a horrible fit, or be great friends? Really, deep down, it all came down to the burning question: would she like me? (She was awesome, by the way, and I have many silly memories of that year. I couldn’t have asked for a better roomie than Marianne. Aww.)
Reading Roomies brought back all of those memories, and Zarr and Altebrando captured that nervous energy beautifully. Even more wonderfully for us, they fleshed out the story by allowing the friendship between the two roomies-to-be, EB and Lauren, to develop online. It’s a clever premise that lets us examine the convention of online friendship. As the book progresses, we swap narrators and get nice, meaty insights into the emotional plights that face our heroines. We agonize with them over the battles they’re waging in their personal lives, and get wrapped up in their relationships. Then we read the emails they send one another, and sometimes cringe, knowing exactly how poorly something is going to come across, or how someone might misconstrue a brisk (but friendly!) line sent off in a rush. It’s just the nature of online communication that it’s so easily misread, and the way Zarr and Altebrando work those subtleties in, here, is brilliant.
That said, it’s not a heavy novel. It plays out naturally and is a fulfilling, enjoyable read. I thought Roomies had a great deal to say about the nature of friendship, understanding, and the bonds we can form when we’re willing to give a little of ourselves.
Mild swearing, references to sex, but no nitty-gritty. 4.5 stars. The 58-page preview version of Roomies releases today (Kindle-only; full version in Kindle and hardcover will be out next month)!