“Maybe people give second chances—third and fourth and fifth chances—more than foster care had me believe.”
|| Goodreads ||
Foster care always promised her a bed. Now she doesn’t even have that.
Coralee (Corey) Reed can’t wait to trade her current foster house for Harmony Hall, the dorm for music majors. Corey arrives at Borns College with her pawn-shop violin and a borrowed duffle bag, ready to leave her foster care baggage behind.
But Corey’s first day on campus starts on a sour note. She runs into her archrival violinist Dylan Mason, then her name’s not on the dorm’s roster. Worst of all, Corey can’t live at Harmony Hall. Period. Because she’s not yet accepted into the music program. Instead, Reslife shoves her into a temporary triple with two unsuspecting (and beyond different) roommates.
When one of her roommates does the unforgivable, Corey starts sleeping around campus—from air mattresses to random couches—while waiting for an open room. But how can she beat Dylan for first chair if she can’t keep her eyes open? How can she pass her finals without a good night’s sleep? Will college, the place she thought would launch her dreams of becoming a professional violinist, be the place her dreams end all too soon?
Notice: thank you to the author for sending an eARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book.
Sleeping Around has been one of the easiest to read and impactful books of my 2021 thus far. It features a main character who has been battered by the foster care system but also has a determination of steel and a good head and heart.
Coralee thinks her problematic past with foster care will be swept away with the beginning of her musical career at Borns College. She’s excited to leave a past identity behind and make a whole new one at school, only it doesn’t go as smoothly as she pictured in her head. Sleeping Around is a coming-of-age novel that involves a lot of common freshman year tribulations: roommate issues, dorm assignments, unhelpful points of contact, and trying to find your way as a new student in a new environment. I appreciate how authentically the freshman year experience is captured in this novel, and it was fun for me to personally reminisce on my own freshman year experience as a rising senior.
*Shudders at the thought*
But while I enjoyed reading Sleeping Around for the list of lighthearted college burdens, this book more importantly shines a light on the hardships and trauma that the foster care system in America can bring. Coralee has been through eleven foster homes since turning 18, and luckily, her last one with Kathryn and Tom isn’t so bad. But as this line in the book between Coralee and one of her foster siblings Zeke points out, landing in a “good” home after so many bad ones leaves lingering trauma:
“‘But we’re in a good spot with Tom and Kathryn.‘
‘We are. But it’s everything before them, you know?‘
I do know. I know too well.”
As we traverse the book through Coralee’s point of view, it is immediately evident that her previous traumatic foster homes have made her distrustful of people’s intentions. She displays a tendency to view everything as transient and temporary because that is what her life has been like in the system. She, as many people who are wounded by childhood trauma do, has learned to be hypervigilant and aware of other people’s emotions. Why? To accommodate them. To avoid more conflict. It pained me to see these characteristics in Coralee and know where they originate from. The book is littered with flashbacks she has from previously abusive and/or neglectful homes she’s been in.
One thing Sleeping Around does that I appreciate is acknowledge and disprove the idea that foster care children are inherently bad or destined for nothing. This very harmful perception of kids in the system is far too easily internalized and (unfortunately) sometimes realized because it is the only narrative that system children hear. It becomes the single story they hear about themselves through peers and adults, and we all know the danger of a single story.
“Another memory resurfaces in my mental trash bag. Sixth grade, new foster house, and I was invited to a girl in my homeroom’s birthday party. A pity invite. Except her mom watched me the entire three hours, even as I walked down the hallway to the bathroom. As I ate my piece of Dairy Queen ice cream cake. I’d seen the same disdain in that mom’s watchful eyes before in my foster parents, my teachers. They pre-defined me in one word: troubled.“
“Pity hurts, but fear hurts more. Neither’s new, though.”
I appreciate that the typical narrative of the freshman year experience was given a new depth with the inclusion of the tribulations of the American foster care system. I appreciate that this book humanizes system children and young adults and allows them to make mistakes without deeming them as inherently troubled. It reminds me of the “person-first” language the disability community is normalizing. (i.e. “person with a disability” and not “disabled person.”) In this instance, a child in the foster care system that displays problematic behavior is not a “problematic system child.” I think this is a narrative that needs to further be explored and dismantled for current and future people that will go through the foster care system.
In all, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the commentary that it offers. Once again, thank you to Morgan Vega for sending me an eARC of the book! Sleeping Around is out on August 3rd, 2021.
About the Author
Morgan Vega earned her BA in English from Bridgewater College and MA in Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication from James Madison University. She worked in higher education for seven years before transitioning into the publishing industry. Morgan interned at Kore Press, worked as an editor at Scarsdale Publishing, and now does marketing for No Starch Press.
Morgan grew up and lives in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. When she’s not writing, Morgan’s freelance editing and talking about books on social media. Sleeping Around is her debut novel.
Visit her website morganvega.com, subscribe to her YouTube channel Morgan Vega, and follow her on social media at @MorganVegaWrite