Tag Archives: Sara Zarr

A ROOMIE Story + Giveaway!


If you haven’t read ROOMIES yet, NOW IS THE TIME! I got to read this book before it came out and let me tell you… Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr totally knocked this one out of the park! If you don’t know much about it, ROOMIES is the story of two girls in their summer right after high school and before college. They’re both from different backgrounds and the book highlights their own personal lives as well as their email interactions with each other as the summer progresses.

The great thing about ROOMIES is that even if you didn’t have the “traditional” summer after high school going into college, it’s still easy to relate to these two girls and their stories. I actually did NOT have the same experience although I identified with so many similar aspects of moving in with roommates and going away to college.


** Small disclaimer: I will be telling some negative stories about my roommate experience in college but although they were tough times when we went through them, I don’t harbor ill will towards the roommate we had the disagreements with. To prevent from slandering her name all over town (not like you know her, but still), I’m going to use initials for all of my college roommates instead of actual names. **

The backstory: I actually didn’t go away to college right away. Having no idea what I wanted to do as a career and the fact that my sister didn’t go away to college (I have a tendency to look to her for advice) left me unsure of my future. We could have afforded me going away to college my freshman year, maybe taking out some student loans to help, but my parents (being the experienced and bright ones in the family) came up with a sort of a bargain for me: If I stayed at home and went to community college for two years and got my Associate’s degree, I could apply to a university my junior year and move straight into an apartment as well as being able to take my mom’s old car as my own (her buying a new one) since I would need it to commute to classes.
As much as I wanted to have that “traditional” (or should I say “expected”, in my town and circle of friends) college experience that so many of my classmates were about to have, I took the deal, accepting ownership of a nice little Hyundai Elantra. I actually applied for the scholarship that my high school offers to one person in the senior class and got it, making the deal even sweeter. I attended my first two years of college totally and completely free (with the exception of books and lab fees) and didn’t have to pay for room & board, food, tuition… nada. My parents were thrilled because it saved them even MORE money and totally helped pay for my two years at Illinois State without having to apply for student loans.
I knew I would still have a friend at home because one of my best friends, Lisa, was actually doing the same exact thing.and we even took a few classes together! It didn’t bother me that I was still living at home because, well, it was all I ever knew at that point! Lisa and I had our own friends from high school who were doing the same thing as well and we’d take a few adventures down to visit our friends at their fancy schmancy universities to give us a taste of the sweet life before we actually moved down there ourselves.

Junior Year: Junior year was my first year away at college. I went down to Normal, IL to check out apartments with my parents and with my future roommate AR, who was still one of my best friends from high school. We had planned to get an apartment with us two, her roommate from the dorms, LT, and her twin sister LJ . Long story short, we had looked at a few apartments and decided on the cheaper of the selections, but without knowing it, LJ had signed a lease on the more expensive of the options so we wouldn’t lose it… but we couldn’t afford the more expensive one. We all felt really bad and really awkward but AR, LT, and I signed the lease for the cheaper apartment which forced LJ to sublet the more expensive one and she ended up living in the dorms junior year instead of with us. (Looking back, I don’t know why she had to live in the dorms… I think something like breaking a deposit or still having to pay some kind of rent…? So she couldn’t afford to live with us that year.) This also put us in a tough spot (as much as we all loved LJ) and forced US to sublet as well. Just a room. To a total stranger when we all knew each other. Since I was still living at home and NOT down at school when this all happened, I was totally out of the loop… Barely knowing this was going on until it all happened, unable to meet people that could potentially be living in our apartment and only finding out who did get chose after the fact. A girl that LT chose that was more like her but that AR and I had nothing in common with. Sooooo. That was super awkward.
My parents helped me move down to school and I moved in a week early to try to find a job, explore the campus (since I was a newbie) and settle in. My dad and I had a huge fight before they left and I was left in a strange apartment in a strange town WITH a stranger (mostly. LT was there but we had only met a few times when I had visited AR in the years before and we had never really talked before). I think I spent the first day crying my eyes out and holing up in my room.
Junior year got better though! I worked in the bookstore for a week and once they didn’t need summer help anymore, I had to find a new job all over again. LT and LJ both worked at the restaurant in the Student Center called McAlister’s — and guys. This was the best job of my life. I made friends, had fantastic bosses, had my first big crush in college (which didn’t pan out, but that’s clearly all for the better now. See: Engagement ring. And don’t tell him, but some fuel for my WIP), and actually had a ton of fun making sandwiches, salads, and spuds. Another story for another day, but thinking about McAlister’s is so bittersweet because I had such fond memories of working there and the people I became friends with but I don’t talk to ANY of them anymore. But that’s more of a post-college story than anything full of messy details. (Intrigued now, aren’t you?)
Random roommate ended up only staying for the first semester so then it was AR, LT and I for the rest of the year. It was actually hard with us three because AR and I knew each other from high school and AR & LT were roommates in the dorm. LT was totally cool but we just had such different personalities that it often created conflicts… not of epic proportions (yet) but AR and I had our high school friends that we hung out with and LT didn’t always feel comfortable hanging out with them because they weren’t her people, ya know? So although we invited her out, she’d come with a few times but often times she stayed behind or went to hang out with her other friends that weren’t the group that we hung out with. We ended up getting in a few spats because she felt left out, which I can totally understand but AR and I felt like we weren’t doing anything wrong since we invited her. Looking back, we probably should have made a better effort to have more “roomie nights” but the divide started growing already.

Senior Year: Senior year things started to work out! LJ was able to move in with us (yay!) and the four of us signed a lease for a new apartment, closer to the center of campus. The place wasn’t as nice and somehow I was the one who ended up parking on the street instead of in the parking lot (we only got two parking spaces) so…. upside, I learned how to parallel park and downside…. mostly everything else about parking on the street. Having to move my car every 24 hours to not get a ticket, someone ripping part of my car off and then driving away, scratches, not being able to find a parking space… Sometimes it was a real nightmare. I tried to suck it up and just avoid the conflict of bargaining to park in the lot (because I’m too damn nice sometimes) but of course my dad pushed me to get into the lot every once in a while and rotate because it should be even and fair. (In hindsight, I JUST WANTED TO AVOID CONFLICT. It was such an awkward spot to be in with my dad pushing me one way and desire to NOT have fights pushing me in the other.)
Oh my god! I almost forgot THE EPIC FIGHTS. The epic fights. The summer before AR and I came back from home and moved into our new apartment, LT got a dog. An adorable, sweet, black lab puppy. At first we were like, “Awww, puppy! She’s so cute!” Except, OH WAIT. One: our apartment doesn’t allow dogs. Two: PUPPY. APARTMENT. PEEING ON THE FLOOR. Three: We like dogs but we did NOT want a dog in our apartment. How were we supposed to bring this up? Why in the world didn’t she talk to us about it? And you know my parents were going to throw their two cents in there because they didn’t want us getting in trouble and they’re parents. That’s what they do. (Except it was yet another awkward spot of parent versus roommate.) I think I partially blocked out these roommate fights, honestly, because it was so incredibly tense during these times. We fought with LT and still had to live in extremely close quarters. Eventually she agreed to get rid of the dog because it would be too big for the apartment and it was hard to train a puppy. But then……… a new dog came around. A small dog. That still wandered everywhere, forcing us to close our doors all of the time so the dog didn’t hop up on our beds or wander in our rooms. (Furthermore enforced after the dog left fleas in my bed, leaving nice itchy spots all over.)
Things finally came to the breaking point when THE epic fight of all epic fights happened. It was the very end of winter break and my other roommates had already gone back to school and I was due to leave in a day or two when I heard that things came to PHYSICAL BLOWS. I guess a big fight broke out and AR finally said what she had been dying to say with no holding back. She and LT ended up physically fighting with LJ jumping in. I was not there to witness it, but AR filled me in on everything and needless to say, it was VERY uncomfortable coming back after that. I was MAD and upset that I had to live with that situation in the house.
We actually went on spring break together senior year and LT didn’t come with, which was another sensitive subject. We invited her and she said no and I think at the time, it was better for her and for us but it was still a very tense situation and naturally, she still felt left out.

NOW: I don’t still talk to LT but I honestly and truly don’t hold any ill will towards her. We had a lot of hard times rooming together, but it was really because we were such different people. I tried to be the least confrontational I could be but sometimes things just had to get put out there. I DO still talk to AR and I’m actually going to LJ’s wedding this year! It was definitely not a situation I’d like someone else to be put in but we all learned several things from these situations and I hope she doesn’t hold any bad feelings towards us either!

Despite the fact that I used initials to not throw anyone’s names out there, I do still want to share pictures from my time at college! So… enjoy these pictures without knowing who these people actually are haha! You can at least tell who I am and some are the roommates… Some are just friends. So enjoy the PICTURES FROM THE GOOD TIMES! <3


Spring Break 2009: And yes, my sunburn REALLY WAS that bad.

Bone Student Center bar crawl senior year (with McAlister’s friends)

There you have it, my dears! My college experience in a nutshell! So many of these college experiences — both good and bad — have also influence my current WIP (which I actually haven’t really touched since NaNo buuut…) so you can see how much they’ve shaped my life as well as much I still carry around from that time! It’s been a pretty big deal in shaping my life in more than one way. 


And now for the giveaway! Little, Brown is offering one copy of the fantastic book that inspired these posts (and my CRAZY LONG roommate story — sorry I shared my WHOLE college experience with you)… ROOMIES by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr! I read this book back in December and totally loved it so I’m so excited to be able to give one away!!

Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr are going on tour this winter too!! They won’t be anywhere near me in Illinois but check out the schedule below and see if they’re coming to a city near you!

  • January 12, 2014 – New York, NY: McNally Jackson [venue link]
  • January 15, 2014 – Salt Lake City, UT: The King’s English [venue link]
  • January 16, 2014 – Provo, UT: Provo Library [venue link]
  • February 4, 2014 – San Francisco, CA: Books Inc, Opera Plaza [venue link]
  • February 5, 2015 – Petaluma, CA: Copperfield’s Books [venue link]

Hope you get to see these amazing authors on tour!

Want to win a copy of the book? Just enter the Rafflecopter below! US entries only please!!

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Roomies – Tara Altebrando & Sara Zarr

Roomies – Tara Altebrando & Sara ZarrTitle: Roomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Publishing Info: December 24, 2013 by Little, Brown
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary, New Adult, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: December 1, 2013

    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 change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.
National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.


ROOMIES was near perfection. This is everything I’ve been looking for in YA and NA and even crossing over into a little of both. My first reaction to the book was really how much I loved that one: it alternates POVs between the two girls and two: that it stays almost strictly in the “in between” time between high school and college. We get to see how both of these girls’ lives changed in that summer before leaving for college which I feel often gets glossed over and overlooked.

I don’t know how ROOMIES would have turned out if we had two POVs written by one author, but I will say that I’m really, really glad that both Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr each got to tell their own story, but together at the same time. I think they brought an original voice to each girl and such authenticity to each voice as well. I really felt like I got to know each girl and really felt invested in each of their stories.
I really liked the emails in every chapter. The two girls communicate almost exclusively through emails so we get their stories together strung throughout their own personal stories at home. I felt like this was a perfect way to bring everything together while still giving each girl their own time and spotlight so the reader could get to know them both together and apart.

Whereas other early reviews have said how much they related to the book because they went through the same thing, I actually didn’t quite have that same connection. Well, I kind of did. For those of you who don’t know me as well, you probably don’t know that I actually went to a community college for two years and then transferred to a university my junior year. I skipped the whole dorm process, having a stranger for a roommate (well, for the most part — that’s an entirely different and longer story), and went straight to living in an apartment so for me, ROOMIES was absolutely still relatable but it wasn’t an “OMG, this was my life” deal. I guess what I’m trying to say with all this long-windedness is that regardless of how closely your experience is/was to EB and Lauren’s, ROOMIES is extremely enjoyable and a very personal experience. Even people who haven’t gone away to college I’m sure can still relate to these girls as well — graduating from high school and other friends moving away, leaving home for the first time, first loves, family issues. ROOMIES really has it all!

Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr totally stuck gold with ROOMIES. I love every character and really felt like each one — from the main characters to their love interests, their parents, even down to Lauren’s younger siblings — really felt like a real person to me. The situations that each girl goes through, the gamut of emotions and first-time experiences — everything was just done just right. I’m really excited for everyone to get their hands on ROOMIES, especially the “new adults” and twenty-somethings like myself because I feel like it will really hit home and root itself as a favorite for many!


Lauren // Character Obsessions: Spending time with her family, working, taking care of her siblings, finding some quiet alone time.
I loved Lauren. She felt so level-headed and really dedicated to her family which I really, really admired. She’s one of those teenagers who has really given up a lot to help out with her family from day to day and help take care of her younger siblings. She lost a lot of “typical” childhood and teenage experiences because she was acting almost like a parent instead of kid, but through it all, she’s enjoyed the experience and never resented how much she helps out. It’s really interesting to see how different Lauren’s background is from EB’s and my heart totally went out to her when she was denied a single room at college and started off rocky with her new roomie.
Elizabeth (“EB”) // Character Obsessions: Going to the beach, living up her last summer, boys, her cell phone, preparing an awesome dorm room.
I feel like EB was more of a “typical” teenager in the sense that her focus was more on connecting with her friends before leaving for school. Whereas Lauren is totally dedicated to her family, EB’s parents are separated — her dad living all the way on the west coast — and EB’s life in New Jersey with her mom is driving her crazy. She can’t wait to leave home and start her great college adventure. She’s quite the opposite of Lauren in many ways, but there’s still a lot of common ground for the two girls. It was really interesting to see how their different backgrounds really shaped their lives and the way they viewed their future living situation.


Kept Me Hooked On: College stories. I loved that ROOMIES was actually the summer before college because I feel like that time is usually lumped into the college experience and I would never have thought to form the book like it was. I loved being able to relate to each of these girls and how hard it can be to figure out how to get along with a roommate even before you meet them!
Left Me Wanting More: College stories! I gobbled this book up. It definitely left me with a satisfied feeling and left me wanting more and more “new adult” books about going away to college or college experiences. I’m always looking for more!

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

This is a really special book, folks. I know when it comes out, I’m buying it for my shelves. I want this book in my life and maybe I’ll trust someone enough to loan it out to them. So long as they don’t harm it. Nah, I’ll just buy them their own copy!



(Click the cover to see my review!)

          Fangirl   Just One Day