Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

RoomiesTitle: Roomies

Authors: Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: December 24th, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

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.

If new adult is going to become a category that sticks around like young adult has, then it needs to have more books like Roomies published if it does. Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando truly understand what it means to be a teen who is about to leave for college. They understand what it means to be a teen on the cusp of adulthood. I can’t wait to share Roomies with my seniors this year and every year that I teach seniors.

I really appreciate the characters’ emotions in this book. Elizabeth and Lauren appear to be very different people, but they’re actually quite similar, especially when comparing how they feel about leaving for college. Both of the girls are questioning their decisions about moving away from home, how to deal with their friends, and how this move will affect their families. I appreciate their feelings about all of these things because I remember feeling exactly the same way before I moved to college. Quite a few of my former seniors confided in me and expressed similar worries. Roomies is a book that will let seniors know that it’s okay to have doubts, but that it’s also okay to ultimately be confident about a decision.

Another reason this book won me over is because it’s written so seamlessly. Sometimes I wonder if a dual-authored book will flow well. I can honestly say that I’m not sure if Sara Zarr and Tara Alterbrando each took on a different character and wrote this story or if they worked on it as a whole together. The characters’ voices are distinct and the story flows perfectly as the points of view change. I love that it felt like I was reading one author’s work.

A layer of the story that made Roomies extra fun are the relationships Elizabeth and Lauren begin. Neither of the girls are really looking to be in a relationship before they leave for school, but the guys they each meet end up being supportive and positive additions to their lives. I love how Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando handled these relationships because while new adult has become associated with romance novels, these relationships are very fitting for the average senior girl who’s about to start life outside of high school. Sex is discussed and a topic of conversation in Roomies, but it’s done without venturing into romance novel territory. It’s new adult that I feel comfortable adding to my classroom library.

Overall, I can’t recommend Roomies enough. The characters are vibrant, their stories and conflicts will resonate with readers, and the feelings and worries portrayed about venturing into the real world are authentic.

Waiting on Wednesday–Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

newwow2

I haven’t read anything by Tara Altebrando, but I absolutely love Sara Zarr.  And I love this cover.  I’m so excited to read a book about a student’s freshman year of college and dorm life because I loved my college years.  Gah!  So much overall excitement for Roomies!

RoomiesTitle & Author: Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Release Date: December 24th, 2013

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary (From Goodreads):

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.

Student Book Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Teaching in trimesters isn’t really my favorite for a variety of reasons, but I love that it allows me to teach so many sections of my Y.A. Lit class.  The 8th section is wrapping up right now, and I can’t wait to see all of my students’ trimester projects.  My student reviewer today, Allison, chose to study Sara Zarr for her project.  If you aren’t familiar with Sara Zarr, she’s an excellent contemporary Y.A. author who currently has four books available: Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, Once Was Lost, and How to Save a Life.  Including Allison, two other students have researched her and read her books for their projects, all of which turned out great.  Allison is an outstanding student, so I’m really looking forward to her presentation.

Title: Sweethearts

Author: Sara Zarr

Student Reviewer: Allison

Summary (From Goodreads): As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another’s only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she’s lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she’s popular, happy, and dating, everything “Jennifer” couldn’t be—but she still can’t shake the memory of her long-lost friend.

When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

From the National Book Award nominated author of Story of a Girl, Sweethearts is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts.

Student Review:

Being a single mother is a hard task, especially when your child doesn’t fit in. This is all about Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick, two kids who were outcasts at their school. They had a friendship most people will never have because they were each other’s only friend. Then one day Cameron doesn’t show up to school, and the school bullies tell Jennifer that he died. Jennifer is lost without Cameron and doesn’t know what to do without him.

Eight years later, Jennifer’s mom gets married and Jennifer changes her name to Jenna Vaughn. She lives a pretty normal life at her new school, with her awesome boyfriend, thin body and amazing friends. When Jenna gets a mysterious note on her birthday, everything in her new life goes backwards. She goes through a journey that changes the way she sees things, and she finally realizes what was actually going on to Cameron all those years ago.

I liked how Jennifer/Jenna changed throughout the book, it was neat seeing what her old self was like compared to her new self. Also I really liked when Cameron came back into the story. I liked the character of him when he was a child, but I really liked the way he had grown up and matured since he was gone all of those years.

At first I couldn’t read this book. I started it and just decided that I couldn’t get into it. But I had read all of Sara Zarr’s book so I thought that I should give this book another try. So, I picked it back up, and I actually got into it. It was enjoyable to read because I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

I think that anyone would like this book because it is not gender specific or anything like that. Jennifer/Jenna is the main character, but there are a few boy characters included such as Ethan and Cameron. I would refer it to someone who likes seeing characters who have internal struggles, but overcomes them. Since Jennifer grew up poor with a mother figure who wasn’t always there I would suggest it to anyone who has family problems.

NCTE/ALAN 2011 Recap

From November 18th-21st I was in Chicago for the NCTE/ALAN Annual Convention.  I ended up going by myself again this year, but unlike last year, I stayed longer and had friends to hang out with the entire time.  It was an exhausting weekend because we were constantly busy going here, there, and everywhere, but it was completely worth it.  And did you know that lugging around 20 lbs of books really wears you out? Who knew?! 🙂

Jillian (@heisereads) and I met in real life (!) for breakfast Friday morning and went to most of the same sessions.  My first session was about using graphic novels in the classroom.  It was a fantastic way to start the day because all of the presenters brought great information to the table.  One of the presenters told us about how she uses Post-it Note Diaries by Arthur Jones as an introduction to teaching the personal essay.  You can find their handouts and presentation information on the NCTE Annual Convention website.  Actually, all of the presenters were encouraged to upload their materials to the website for those who couldn’t attend certain sessions and those who couldn’t attend the conference.  Anyway, I’ve been interested in reading more graphic novels and after this session I can’t wait to find ways to use them in my classroom.

Part of my first haul of books!

Jillian and I went to the second session together, but we ended up disappointed and left.  It was about bullying but the presenter came off as arrogant and most of what she said I disagreed with.  Jillian and I decided to head down to the exhibit hall, aka the dungeon, to get in line for the John Green signing.  Unfortunately he wasn’t signing ARCs of his newest book, but we did get a chapter sample.  The exhibits were crazy when they first opened!  I have to admit that I was embarrassed for some of the teachers there.  While we waited to be let in, there was a group of teachers standing in front of us with suitcases on wheels and game planning over how to get the most books.  I completely understand being excited about free/cheaper books, but these teachers ran into the exhibit hall and bombarded the booths.  I heard teachers walking up to people working the booths and asking them what they had for free.  Really?!  Jillian and I took our time talking with the editors, publicists, marketing team, etc to find out which books were their favorites and which books they recommend for our students.  It was an excellent way to find out about new books and we formed some relationships in the process.  And you know what?  The people we spoke with were more likely to offer us books after talking with us.  So yes, some of the teachers surprised me, but most of them were doing exactly the same thing as we did.

After lunch and taking some time to rest our shoulders after lugging around 15+ books each, we went to a session on teaching grammar better.  I was exhausted by this point and couldn’t retain that much information anymore.  I was happy to attend the session, though, because they had a PowerPoint prepared that we can use with out students and they also had some good ideas on making grammar more relevant for our students.  I even sent my department head a text letting her know about the session because so many of the teachers in my department are concerned with teaching grammar.

Me, S.J. Kincaid & Jillian

Friday night ended on a high note when Jillian and I went out to dinner with HarperCollins editor Molly O’Neill and upcoming debut author S.J. (Shelley) Kincaid.  Shelley’s debut novel, Insignia, releases in July, but we were fortunate enough to get an ARC before the conference.  If you work with teenage boys, make sure you get this book.  I know some girls will enjoy it, but I can’t wait to hand this novel to my reluctant boys and my sci-fi fans.  It’s full of action and humor and just a fun read (my review will be posted soon).  Molly also invited Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops and Becky’s daughter.  I’ve only heard great things about Becky’s stores, so it was really cool getting to meet and connect with her.  Shelley is wonderful and really intelligent.  After spending some time with her at dinner, I’m really looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.

I attended my first ALAN breakfast on Saturday morning.  I met more of my Twitter friends like Jen (@mentortexts), Kellee (@kellemoye), Mindi (@mindi_r) and so many more.  It was really cool meeting everyone for the first time!  The breakfast itself was a cool experience and I really enjoyed listening to Sharon Draper speak.  The best part of her speech was talking about how our life is our dash and we need to fill it with great stories.  What a wonderful way of looking at life.  Jilllian and I were constant buddies during the convention, so we perused the exhibits and met some authors during signings.  I met Laurie Halse Anderson and now have a signed copy of Speak (squee!).  My favorite session of the day was on writing and revision.  Four teachers presented their teaching writing and revising strategies.  One of the teachers uses NaNoWriMo in her classroom.  The way she does this is so cool and something I’d love to try.  Another teacher is using writing mini-lessons for different paper assignments and has stopped using letter grades.  She has a rubric for her students and grades them on Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, and Needs Improvement.  The students have pieces to work on according to different rubrics and are graded on their improvement during the trimester.  This way of teaching sounds like something I could adapt in my classroom, so I’m excited to check out her resources.  For information on using NaNoWriMo in your classroom check out her website: msansbach.wikispaces.com  If you want to learn more about eliminating letter grades and refocusing on writing as a process, check out her website: msshortlearnstwice.blogspot.com

Sara Zarr!

Saturday night was tons of fun because we had a Twitter friends dinner at Carnivale.  The food and drinks were delicious and the restaurant is bright and vibrant.  I was sitting at the end of the table with Katherine (@katsok), Cindy (@CBethM), Lea (@leakelley) and Chris (@ckervina).  At the other end of the table was Jillian, Aly (@alybee930), Cathy (@Cathy_Blackler), Mindi (@mindi_r) and Jillian.  The conversations were great and so was the experience in general.  I really miss my Twitter friends.

Picture from Jen's blog--Jillian, Jen & Me

Sunday and Monday were simply awesome.  There weren’t that many sessions on Sunday, but I did go to a good one about using YA in a traditional curriculum.  Some of the titles were outdated, but the ideas on discussing themes were very cool.  One of the presenters discussed the idea of using theory and heuristics. They also said their handouts would be on the convention website.  The best part of Sunday was the ALAN cocktail party.  I geeked out over so many authors!  I met Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, M.T. Anderson (because after meeting John Green & telling him a story of how his books and M.T. Anderson’s books hooked one of my boys John took me to meet him and tell him the story), and so many others!  I had a chance to talk with A.S. King which was awesome after how she and I have connected since I read and reviewed Everybody Sees the Ants.   The Twitter group met up with Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) and Teresa (@rdngteach) there as well.  Donalyn has no fear and helped us get the courage to approach some of the authors.  Heidi (@hmz1505), a librarian and blogger, spent a lot of time hanging out with us as well.  All of us had fangirly moments over different authors 🙂

A.S. King!!

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the entire ALAN portion of the convention.  I was there most of the day on Monday, but I had to head home since we had finals going on for the end of the trimester.  Listening to Matt de la Pena, Chris Crutcher, Sarah Dessen, and so many other authors speak was inspiring.  Our entire Twitter row was tweeting what the authors said like crazy.  Matt de la Pena was probably my favorite speaker of the day.  Besides the fact that he’s eloquent and thoughtful, he represents so many of our reluctant readers.  I’m really bummed that I missed Laurie Halse Anderson’s presentation.  I will admit that I was happy to return home because I missed Keith, my small cats, and I was exhausted.

Overall, I can’t encourage teachers enough to attend this conference in the future.  Next year it’s going to be in Las Vegas, so I’ll start saving after Christmas.  It’s the perfect way to connect with authors and other teachers.  It’s also an excellent way to learn from other teachers.  What I liked most about the sessions is how excited the teachers were to share with us; so many told us to email them with any questions.  I loved meeting my Twitter friends and I can’t wait to meet up again! 😀

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