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Originally published Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 6:05 AM

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‘The Roommates:’ true tales of 21st-century cohabitation

“The Roommates,” Stephanie Wu’s collection of true stories about young people thrown together as housemates, is by turns hilarious and bizarre and reflects how the 21st-century household is changing “impossibly quickly.”


The Washington Post

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“The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters”

by Stephanie Wu

Picador True Tales, 288 pp., $16

Any day now, parents across the country will fill their minivans with hope and some stuff from Target and drive their amazing kids off to college.

Some of their young men and women will study business and English, while others will simply major in beer. But every one of them will gain an appreciation for comedian Bridger Winegar’s recent tweet, “Roommate wanted. We would split rent 50/50, utilities 50/50, cable 50/50, groceries 50/50. Ideally, you would live somewhere else.”

Stephanie Wu captures that spirit in her new book, “The Roommates,” a collection of anonymous housemate-horror stories that draws a “picture of a 21st-century household and how it’s changing impossibly quickly.”

Wu employs a light editorial hand here, which delivers raw stories that feel honest and authentic, if a little clunky. Many give flesh and blood to the nightmares that lurk in Craigslist’s darkest corners.

One recent grad’s unbearable New York roommate claimed he suffered from a muscular disease that would leave him dead within a year. “We later found out Jimmy was never sick — he never had anything physically wrong with him and it was completely psychosomatic,” the 26-year-old says. “He was essentially hung over for about four months.”

Some of the book’s most dramatic stories involve mental illness. They’re by turns tragic and bizarre.

The American college party scene the book describes is familiar. A 24-year-old reports that she and her fellow students threw St. Patrick’s Day “Kegs and Eggs” parties at Boston College to “drink and have some food in our stomachs before we went out.”

But never does “The Roommates” resonate more than when one woman remembers the delight that came with the keys to her first place. “It had bars on all the windows, and it was tiny, damp and on a horrible block,” she writes. “But because it was ours, we were so proud of it.”



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