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January 13, 2014

Book Notes - Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando "Roomies"


In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Written by two of young adult fiction's most talented writers, Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, Roomies is a pitch-perfect and bittersweet depiction of the last summer before college for two future roommates.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"The authors give the story big doses of humor, sensitivity, and sweetness, along with a complex and realistic cast; EB and Lauren’s stories amount to two great novels in one."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In their own words, here is Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando's Book Notes music playlist for their novel, Roomies:

From Tara's headset:

Roomies was written over a span of about five years, as a backburner sort of project for myself and Sara, so it was a touch harder to track my listening habits while writing. Never you mind, this playlist should complement the book nicely!

"Breathless" Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
EB has a summer romance, in which they're trying to cram relationship milestones into a few months; she and Mark choose this song as "their song" and make a point of dancing together to it. I think it's one of only two songs named by name in the book. I absolutely regret not choosing this song as my wedding "first dance" song. There. I said it.

"The Only Place" by Best Coast
A great beach/driving song, which also happens to be about how awesome California is. Since EB is completely obsessed with her upcoming move to the west coast for college, I think she'd likely have a playlist about moving that was sort of adolescently obvious/literal. Also, she's FROM a beach town; she surfs. So even though she's moving to San Fran and not L.A. she's got some surf pop in heavy rotation for sure.

Also on her "moving" playlist:

"California" by Low
Is this actually a happy Low song? I'm still not sure. Which makes sense considering EB is having one of those summers where everything is happy and sad, amazing and awful, at the same time.

"Check My Brain" by Alice in Chains
Another song that specifically name-checks California, though with a totally different vibe, of course. I see EB playing this on an angry drive after she and Mark (or Lauren?) have a fight. I have a feeling Lauren wouldn't much like this song, like if EB played it in the dorm room that the two will eventually share.

"We Used to Be Friends" by the Dandy Warhols
The other song named in the book, when the girls discover a shared a love for Veronica Mars. Maybe they'll be happy as roommates after all?

And from Sara's…

Lauren is the first main character that I don't strongly connect with a certain kind of music, and didn't while I was writing. I don't imagine her on the cutting edge of music; she might be one of those weird people who doesn't have a hip or exciting answer when asked about her favorites. In a Roomies sequel, I can see this being an issue between Lauren and EB!

"Royals" by Lorde
In Lauren's first chapter, she has a rare fifteen minutes with the house to herself and contemplates hooking up her iPod to the stereo and blasting it. What would she play? I think her iPod is not very full, and mostly populated by "songs of the moment" stuff, songs you can sing all the words to with your friends rather than more obscure, personal songs. What's more a "song of the moment" than this great earworm?

"The Circle of Life" by Elton John
"Crooked Smile" by J. Cole & TLC

When Lauren and her friend/crush, Keyon, go shopping together at Goodwill looking for antiques to resell, and find 1) a DVD of The Lion King, which prompts Key to start singing "The Circle of Life." And 2) an old Bakelite radio that they tune in to Bay Area hip-hop and R&B station, KMEL, which as I type this is playing "Crooked Smile."

"Lights" by Journey
Lauren lives in San Francisco, and this is a love song to the city from a band that San Franciscans kind of claim as their own. You don't grow up there without eventually joining this anthem.

"Part of Me, Part of You" by Glenn Frey
There's a scene in which Lauren is talking to her dad about friendship, and how she and her high school best friend, Zoe, seem to be drifting apart. Are all friendships destined to eventually fade away? Lauren's dad makes an allusion to Thelma & Louise, that Lauren doesn't get, because she hasn't seen the movie. If she'd gone home and Googled it, maybe she'd come across the terrible video that goes with this pretty bad song and find more fodder for the affectionate teasing that is part of how she relates to her dad. (Really, the only good song on the soundtrack as I see it, is B.B. King doing "Better Not Look Down," but it's kind of grim given the ending of the movie! Speaking of "Better Not Look Down," I have to say I enjoy Jerry Lee Lewis' version, too.)

Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando and Roomies links:

Sara Zarr's website
Tara Altebrando's website
video trailer for the book

Booklist review
BookPage review
Bustle review
Kirkus review

Huffington Post essay by the authors
PW KidsCast interview with the authors
Sara Zarr's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel How to Save a Life
Sara Zarr's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel Once Was Lost
Sara Zarr's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel Sweethearts
Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life
Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel Dreamland Social Club
Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel Love Will Tear Us Apart
Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel Wouldn't Miss It for the World
Tara Altebrando's Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for her novel What Happens Here

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

Online "Best of 2013" Book Lists
2013 Year-End Online Music Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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