I finished this book in an afternoon! There was no leaving Mattie Rollins in the midst of her quest for safety and no reading the novel without falling in love with her. Sleeping In My Jeans captures the innocent, insightful lyricism of adolescence. Through Mattie's voice, Leonard is able to tell a story that neither sensationalizes nor minimizes the challenges faced by homeless families. Definitely one of the best novels about teenage homelessness, Sleeping in My Jeans would make a wonderful addition to any middle school library or high school reading list.
Ms. Leonard has provided us with page after page of unforgettable characters and a sobering, heartfelt look at the sometimes sudden onset of childhood homelessness and the hidden dangers of human trafficking. Mattie is fiercely resilient, Meg is charming, and though the mother is flawedas most mothers areone thing we never doubt is the love she has for her children. The ending is uplifting and gives us a huge dose of hopehope that Mattie and her family will somehow beat the odds.
Mattie, 16; her 6-year-old sister, Meg; and her single mother have been kicked out of her mother's boyfriend's apartment and are now living in their car. Mattie's main goal has always been to get straight As in school so she might be able to get a free ride to college, but now she is focused on staying safe and taking care of Meg. She keeps her situation secret, with no explanations when she leaves early every day and goes to the library with Meg while her mother works. One day, however, her mother drops them off at school and never returns to pick them up. Mattie has to think fast to find shelter and look for her mother, following every grim lead she can think of while keeping her fears from Meg. Leonard packs a lot into her debut novel: homelessness, food insecurity, the vicious cycle of poverty, and human trafficking. Although Mattie's sleuthing is a little too neat, her first-person, present-tense narrative is compelling and vivid, and her compassionate characterization is remarkable. Donna Scanlon
This story really illustrates how fast things can fall apart, how close all of us are to total vulnerability, how much we should all be grateful for the support of our friends and family, because without them this truly is a cruel world. Bouncing back between a high school romance and the terrifying reality of homelessness is a tense, a thrilling roller coaster ride of despair and hope. The dichotomy of emergent love and family secrets, of danger and perseverance, of Mattie learning to be a sister and a daughter, while also freeing her heart, is a gorgeous exploration of the many facets of being human, and it finishes with a stomach-clenching twist so unexpected it leaves you breathless. You will root for Mattie and Meg, and their brave, struggling mother, every step of the way.
Connie King Leonard’s emotional and intense Sleeping in My Jeans is led by Mattie, a determined sixteen-year-old who wants to go to college and get a good job so that she can help her six-year-old sister, Meg, do the same. Her plans are threatened when her mother’s boyfriend beats her mother up, and the family has to leave the home though they have nowhere to go.
Family troubles extend beyond domestic abuse and homelessness when the girls’ mother drops them off at the library and does not return. Mattie knows that her mother would never willingly leave; she is certain that something is terribly
wrong. In addition to trying to keep both herself and her sister safe, she searches for her mother.
Mattie does not allow herself even the most basic of comforts. When Jack, a boy at school, tries to get to know her, she rebuffs him, though she longs for the friendship. It is painful to witness her suffering and to share her fear and loneliness.
Though a work of fiction, the book deals with real young adult issues, including homelessness and vulnerability. Mattie’s situation is not romanticizedshe is hungry and tired and cold, and she fights hard to protect her mom and sister. Her ordeals leave serious scars, but she never gives up.
Sleeping in My Jeans is an enlightening teen read; its serious issues and compelling story make it impossible to forget.
What makes an honors student panhandle on the corner? What causes a college bound teen to be caught up in the arms of a sex trafficker? Author Connie King does a masterful job of showing just how quickly the gap between the haves and the have-nots spreads when life takes a turn for the worst. Sleeping in My Jeans is a story that details the impossible options we might have if we lost our home, our stability and our trust in the people around us. If you’ve ever wondered why people live on the street, Connie King Leonard can show you how easy it is to get there and how difficult it can be to get back home.
A teen's struggles with homelessness become more complicated when her mother disappears.
Mattie Rollins, a mixed-race (black/white) 16-year-old, does all she can to take care of her 6-year-old sister, Meg, while their white mother works and attends school. Sharing an apartment with their mom's boyfriend helps to make ends meet, but that changes abruptly when he beats their mom during a fight and they are forced to flee, ending up living in their car. Mattie tries hard to keep her grades up and remain focused, but the indignities of their situation interfere with normal life, especially when Jack, a white classmate, tries to make a connection. Jack is persistent and eventually becomes an important friend. The girls spend their after-school time in the public library. When their mom doesn't pick them up one evening, Mattie is distraught, but she puts on a brave face for Meg, even panhandling to get bus fare. Finally, she realizes her mother didn't just leave them but is in danger. This stark look at the problems of one vulnerable family drives home how difficult life can be for young people on the street. Mattie is smart and resourceful, fortunate to find allies, and still has difficulties. The story portrays a system that is unforgiving of bad luck and the poor decisions of a single mom without extended family.
Straightforward prose and sympathetic characters serve the narrative and arouse empathy. (author's note) (Fiction. 12-18)