Book Review #37: Roomies

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I could’ve used a book like “Roomies” before I started college, especially one that focuses almost exclusively on the perils of that first summer before.

“Roomies” centers around Lauren and Elizabeth, strangers from opposite coasts who begin emailing each other after they learn that they’re going to be roommates. What starts as routine correspondence grows into something resembling friendship–except the girls haven’t actually met yet.

The line drawn between real life intimacy and online confessions is one of the best parts of the book. Both girls can and do censor themselves and misunderstand each other because their conversations aren’t happening in real time. Their knowledge of each other is limited by their physical distance, and one of the main reasons they feel so close to each other is because that distance allows them to be honest in a way they can’t be at home.

Some of the interpersonal issues were resolved without the appropriate amount of hassle–Elizabeth’s issues with her friend Janine, and Lauren’s issues with her family come to mind–but for the most part I appreciated the lack of drama. Going away to school forces enough change on its own that the authors didn’t need to obsess over specifics.

Friendships end, new relationships begin, and you start to realize how much you’ve taken your family for granted your whole life. It felt more meaningful for Lauren and Elizabeth to recognize these changes and respond to them than it was for them to dig in their heels and throw fits. What made the book for me was watching both girls learn that they can take control of their own destinies and their own relationships. That they can make their lives whatever they want them to be.

“Roomies” is pretty light contemporary compared to some of what’s out there, but it’s an important book nonetheless. I’d definitely recommend it.

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Book Review(s) News

I’ve been writing book reviews on this blog since 2013, and I’ve stuck to my every-third-book schedule faithfully since then. However, you might have noticed that there haven’t been any new reviews posted for the last couple months, here or on my Goodreads.

It isn’t that I’ve gotten lazy, or that I’ve been blasting through books too quickly to review them. (Although both those things could very well have been true if I’d kept up my reviews as planned.) The issue at hand is that I don’t really feel comfortable posting less than favorable reviews anymore.

I realized this about a month ago, when my next book to review ended up being something I’d disliked. At first, my negative reaction didn’t seem like a problem. I had a set of valid, well-thought out reasons for not enjoying the story, and I was eager to talk about them. Discussing a novel I have strong feelings about–no matter what kind of feelings we’re dealing with–is always more fun than talking about a book that I found mediocre. Some of my past reviews have focused more heavily on the story’s flaws than the things that worked well, and I tend to enjoy those reviews more too.

Just to clarify: I’m not a flamer. I don’t take potshots at the writer in any capacity. I don’t link authors to negative reviews, harass them, or cause them any trouble online. I focus strictly on the writing and what is or isn’t working for me.

And in all honesty, I’m not sure that’s good enough.

You see, I’ve debated about whether to leave uncomplimentary reviews online or not. I’ve flip-flopped over whether to post them online in the first place. And for the year and a half that this self-imposed review project has been ongoing, I’ve convinced myself that it’s okay if I exercise my free speech as long as I’m not an asshole. For the most part, I still believe that. But as an aspiring author and sideline member of the publishing community, I know that this industry is too small for me to be overly critical of anyone else’s work without consequences.

Even if I never openly badmouth anyone, I don’t think over-critical negativity is the kind of first impression I want to make. I could end up working with the same agent or editor as the author whose book I openly disliked. Hell, I could end up meeting those authors or sharing social circles with them at some point in time. Better to begin with a clean slate if I’m ever fortunate enough to break into publishing.

This isn’t the end of my book reviews by any stretch. Just a necessary PSA that from here on in, I only plan to post the positive ones. 🙂