Before I begin I would just like to thank Rachel Sargeant for sending me a copy of The Roommates to review, and to Nigel Sargeant for getting in touch.
Going to university is a daunting experience. For most students, it will be their first time living independently. They will find themselves far away from their parents, away from the comforting familiarity of their hometown and surrounded by strangers. Rachael Sargeant’s novel, The Roommates, follows four characters through their first term at the fictional Abbeythorpe University. However, it soon becomes apparent that they are all concealing something about themselves. Of the four central characters, I found Imo to be the most engaging as the trauma of her past quickly resurfaces and is brought to the fore in the aftermath of Amber’s sudden disappearance. Imo’s grief after the loss of her sister plays a key role in the novel’s narrative as her prior trauma acts as a driving force behind her efforts to uncover the truth about Amber’s disappearance. The Roommates explores how such traumatic events can take their toll on an individual and their mental health. Despite being the pivotal character, I feel as though Imogen receives the least in the way of a resolution. I would like to see the author return to this character at some point as I think there is still plenty to be explored with Imo and her search for her sister.
Although I enjoyed reading The Roommates, I do have some issues with the plot. Mainly with the notion that all four of the girls have some massive secret that they are desperate to hide. This initially seems a bit far-fetched and can at times convolute the plot, detracting somewhat from the main mystery at hand. The Roommates also suffers from some pacing issues around the novel's midpoint. After the characters are introduced and the whodunnit premise is laid out there is a large portion in which the girls appear to be making no progress with cracking the case and not much happens. That is until the very end of the book where the whole thing ramps up enormously in pace and the mystery is solved in what feels like no time at all. Although I did not immediately warm to the characters I found myself becoming more fond of them as the novel progressed. Having spent my first year of uni in halls I have to say that some elements of the text are hilariously accurate to real life. I remember fondly the overcrowded flat parties, the excessive consumption of Strongbow Dark fruits and the towers of takeaway pizza boxes. The Roommates reflects this aspect of uni ‘culture’ perfectly. Rachael Sargeant expertly captures the excitement of freshers’ week and does a fantastic job of portraying life in student halls. Similarly, the setting of Abbeythorpe university is original, authentic and well imagined.
Overall I enjoyed reading The Roommates. The plot is at times a little contrived. However, the vibrant setting and pervading sense of mystery results in a novel that is consistently engaging and fun to read.
If you would like to pick up a copy of The Roommates, it is available via the following links: