Sharing Secrets With A Stranger

Cover of Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara AltebrandoRoomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. New York, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

Why is it that sometimes it is easier to share difficult secrets virtually with a stranger than to talk about them with your best friends? Whatever the reason, when Elizabeth (EB) gets the contact information for her freshman roommate at college, her initial email is the beginning of a summer of confidences that are both the start and nearly the finish of a new friendship. In some ways EB and Lauren couldn’t be more different. EB is an only child whose father abandoned the family years ago. Lauren has loving parents but a house full of much younger siblings who make her life crazy. Yet both are facing some of the same challenges in life and love as they face leaving home for their first year of college.

Lots of YA books that deal with love and sex actually are horrible examples of relationships. (Read my critique of Unhinged by A. G. Howard for an example.) It is so refreshing to find a book that gets it absolutely right! Both girls struggle with whether or not to have sex with their boyfriends. EB’s boyfriend is pressuring her to have sex with him. The more he pressures her, the more reluctant she is. She’s smart enough to dump him over it. I won’t go into more detail other than to say that both girls make thoughtful, careful choices that are right for them.

Relationships are a big part of this book. The consequences of romantic decisions and a contrast of selfishness with respect are recurring themes. Lauren’s love interest, Keyon, gets wonderful advice from his Dad, advice that emphasizes communication and respect. I thought that this book provided an honest look into the dynamics of negotiating an inter-racial relationship, too. Everybody is OK with the idea of it. But when faced with their child actually in such a relationship, people get nervous. As Lauren put it, “Race. It’s so tricky, even though we’re all supposedly enlightened and color-blind. I don’t want it to be a thing. But it kind of is a Thing, isn’t it?”

Roomies is a great story, one I will have no qualms about recommending. It’s great to see a book that gets so much right while still being a truly entertaining read.

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About booksnquilts

I'm the Children's Services Coordinator for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library in Central Virginia.
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