I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but here in southern California we’ve had some pretty hot days recently. So I thought that for this entry in my occasional Bookish Brew series, a cool summer smoothie would be more in order than a hot drink. Make that two smoothies– one for each of the narrators of Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando’s wonderful and authentic Roomies (2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Nominations List).
When Roomies begins, teens Lauren and Elizabeth are a couple months away from starting their freshman year at the University of California, Berkeley. They have just received each other’s names and email addresses from the campus housing office because they have been matched as dorm roommates. Lauren lives in San Francisco, California, which is not far from the city of Berkeley. In her loving two-parent family, she is the eldest of her siblings by several years. Her responsible nature may stem partly from her heavy child-rearing responsibilities. She is somewhat shy, concerned with honesty and aims to work in scientific research. Elizabeth, also known as E.B., lives in suburban New Jersey near the Shore with her single divorced mom with whom she does not have a close relationship. Elizabeth can be overly sensitive at times and is more impulsive than Lauren, as well as more outgoing. She plans to study landscape architecture.
Initiated by Elizabeth of course, the two begin an email correspondence over the summer. They share the details of their lives and soon after their feelings and frustrations about friends, family and boyfriends. This is not an epistolary novel, however; these emails are one component of a traditional narrative. The two girls alternate narrating chapters.
Initially Lauren and Elizabeth experience a mainly positive interaction, getting a feel for each other’s personalities, leaning on each other throughout a couple situations in their personal lives and sharing the joys of their respective first loves. A misunderstanding arises, however, connected to Elizabeth‘s estranged father, who lives and owns an art gallery in San Francisco. Both girls are challenged to look at the situation through the other’s eyes and decide whether reconciliation is possible. In an interview with Harvard Magazine (September-October 2014) Tara Altebrando describes how she and Sara Zarr wrote the book both separately and together over a period of three years and mentions that they are considering either a sequel or another collaborative project.
I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of Roomies if you can, which is voiced by Becca Battoe and Emily Eiden. These two readers do an amazing job of vocally capturing the distinct rhythms and personalities of Lauren and Elizabeth, not to mention the differences in regional accents.
But now the time has come to blend! When choosing the ingredients for a â€œbookish brewâ€ I consider the setting and the essential traits or qualities of the main character of a novel. As there are two quite distinct main characters in Roomies, I’ve created two smoothies.
Both of the following recipes will make one serving. Feel free to double or otherwise increase the amount of each ingredient as needed. Then just throw all of the ingredients into your blender, turn it on at the setting that you prefer for ten to thirty seconds and voilÃ !
The Ladylike Lauren
Lauren is the more cautious of the two girls, which to me suggests starting with a more traditional smoothie recipe. Her hometown of San Francisco is also the home of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which in my book almost requires the addition of something derived from the cocoa bean!
- 6 ounces vanilla yogurt
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ cup frozen raspberries
- ½ tablespoon raspberry jam (optional)
- 1 ½ tablespoons chocolate syrup
The Electric Elizabeth
Elizabeth seems to feel more at ease with trying new things (e.g., traveling across the country for college). Given this and her love for plant life, I used a green smoothie as a base. To make the green â€œelectricâ€ I added a little carbonation in the form of wishniak black cherry soda (a non-alcoholic drink), which is popular in New Jersey, but can be found in most beverage stores elsewhere.
- 1 cup chopped spinach or kale
- ¼ of an avocado, peeled and with pit removed
- ¾ cup apple juice
- ½ apple, peeled, cored and chopped (make sure your blender can handle apples)
- 1/2 cup wishniak black cherry soda
I wanted to finally note that Roomies has been included in a few reading lists created by my fellow Hub bloggers. If you like the fact that Roomies centers around email communication, try the book suggestions at â€œTeen Tech Week: YA Fiction About Online Lifeâ€ (3/14/14). If you want to read more books with alternating narrators, try the titles included on â€œIs This the Real Life? YA Books with Multiple Perspectivesâ€ (3/13/14). If you’re starting college this semester or in the next couple years, definitely check out the books on â€œHeading to College? Read These Books Firstâ€ (9/6/13).
Happy reading and smoothie-making!
– Anna Dalin, currently listening to The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
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