Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando


3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks to the likes of John Green, Matthew Quick and Rainbow Rowell, I’m finding myself more and more interested in Young Adult contemporary novels. I thought I’d give this one a shot, particularly with university fast approaching – although I won’t be sharing a room, thank goodness. I’m also a particular fan of stories set during university or college, as it’s a period of my life that I really loved (and hopefully I’ll love my upcoming experience just as much!), so it resonates well with me.

Told from the point of view of two girls, Elizabeth (or EB) and Lauren, who find that they are going to be roommates at UC Berkeley, the story uses both first-hand accounts and emails. Although obviously hesitant to tell each other much at first, the two future roommates find each other confiding more and more as the summer comes to a close, things they can’t tell anyone else in their lives. I liked how the relationship built up that way, all online – because actually it can be really easy to open up to someone you only know online, and it was nice to have a book that addressed that, even if EB and Lauren knew they would meet eventually. As the protagonists learnt more about each other, so did the reader. One of my favourite parts was how EB used the father of Lauren’s boyfriend as a sort of moral code in her life – when she did anything, she asked herself whether his dad would approve. I just found this pretty cute for some reason!

Despite the fact that the book covered all different parts of growing up and moving on, I really felt like it centered on Lauren and EB’s respective boyfriends too much. Sure, it wasn’t all boy talk – but there was a LOT. I’d loved to have read more about their families, particularly EB who gave more of an impression of her mum being this cold, unknown figure than anything else. Actually more than anything, I’d like to read a young adult book WITHOUT a romance. And regardless of the different fonts used for each girl, I had to keep reminding myself whose chapter I was reading – I felt like their voices were a little too similar (despite each girl being written by someone different?).

This book flitted between a three and four star rating, but eventually I settled on three. The ending felt a little rushed and was actually quite disappointing in a way. However, I thought it was a very sweet book, and a great read for anyone making that same huge transition in their life.


Review: Boy21 by Matthew Quick


4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve noticed a formula with all of the Matthew Quick books I’ve read so far. They all feature:

  • a main character (or characters) with quirky habits or personal issues that go deeper than they initially appear to
  • an emphasis on the importance of family and friendship, no matter how rocky the relationship, or how difficult things might be
  • a particular hobby or interest that the main character has a real passion for – and it’s not always healthy

So far this formula has worked very well for Quick – and Boy21 is no exception. It’s very much his writing – simple yet unique, thoughtful and very centered around character development. When we first meet Finley, he tells us the short, sweet story of how he met his girlfriend, Erin. They have known each other since they were kids, and their relationship to me felt so genuine. They’re so supportive of each other with their basketball careers. The one element I didn’t quite understand of their relationship was that they broke up every basketball season, then got back together after. I understand why, so they wouldn’t distract each other, but I don’t really understand how they could do it if their relationship was so great. Or maybe that’s the point, they’re so trusting and comfortable with each other that they know three months not even talking each year will be fine?

Russ’ introduction, on the other hand, was crazy. And very sad. Convinced that he is in fact an alien called Boy21, who will be ‘collected’ by his parents in a few months, he refers to Finley as ‘Earthling’ and asks him questions such as where his ‘dwelling pod’ is. Neither Finley, nor the reader, know whether Russ is actually convinced that he is an alien or whether he has just put up this very elaborate front to try and keep the pain of his parents’ murder away – and it’s heartbreaking. In his more lucid moments, Russ proves to be a great friend, and in a strange role reversal, manages to coax Finley out of his shell.

Although Finley was at times a rather spineless character – his main ambition seemed to be to follow Erin around wherever her basketball career might take her, and stay with her for the rest of his life – he was a genuinely selfless guy, prepared to help out Russ, even if his very presence threatened one of the things that meant most to Finley – his place on the basketball team.

Overall, a wonderful story about how different people deal with loss, and a great coming of age tale. My main complaint was that I was bit lost amongst the basketball terminology at times, but that’s about it! A definite recommendation for anyone who has previously enjoyed Quick’s works, as well as those of YA contemporary authors such as John Green.


Review: Doctor’s Notes by Rosemary Leonard


3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Last week I discussed the careers of book bloggers, and shared with you all that I aim to one day be a museum curator. But what I somehow failed to mention (don’t ask how) in that post is that my current job is a medical receptionist. It’s an interesting job, both enjoyable and very stressful at times. So when I saw this book on Bookbridgr I had to request it, to compare Rosemary’s stories to my own experiences!

There were some truly hilarious stories, and others that were really quite shocking. For example, within the same week Rosemary saw three teenage girls who’d all recently gotten pregnant and were happy to keep the baby as their boyfriends had proposed. And then a couple of weeks later, all three girls came back with another problem. Turns out they all had gonorrhea, had all been seeing the same man, who had gotten them all pregnant and proposed to each and every one. Although on occasion the detail in some tales was a bit grisly and graphic, the information about various medical conditions was fascinating. And of course there were bits that were possibly only funny if you work in a GP surgery – such as rushing to fulfill QOF targets before the end of the financial year (which we were doing at the end of March this year).

However, whilst it was quite enjoyable, at times it felt a little… uncomfortable, in a way. Obviously when it comes to healthcare there is a MAJOR emphasis on confidentiality, and this felt almost like it was breaching that trust at times. I know the names and identities were changed but still – what if someone featured in the book read it and recognised themselves? Sure, no-one else could, but that person would feel humiliated and betrayed. And then of course that left me feeling conflicted over whether I should really have found some of those stories funny, as they happened to real people and had real consequences. The writing style also reminded me of ‘true life’ stories in those trashy magazines that we love to hate (‘My father is also my brother!‘, I married a serial killer!‘ etc). Unfortunately, what let the book down the most in my eyes was how judgmental I felt Rosemary was at times. She makes far too many comments on class and appearance, and whilst I understand that doctors may see people in a different way because they’re used to making visual assessments, there was really no need for it here.

Overall, a light and quick read – occasionally cringe-inducing and able of making the reader feel rather uncomfortable – but interesting nonetheless. Worth the read if you work in a similar environment, if only for the familiarity.