Everyone has a secret. But Lucy’s is bigger and dirtier than most. It’s one she’s been hiding for years—that her mom’s out-of-control hoarding has turned their lives into a world of garbage and shame. She’s managed to keep her home life hidden from her best friend and her crush, knowing they’d be disgusted by the truth. So, when her mom dies suddenly in their home, Lucy hesitates to call 911 because revealing their way of life would make her future unbearable—and she begins her two-day plan to set her life right.
With details that are as fascinating as they are disturbing, C. J. Omololu weaves an hour-by-hour account of Lucy’s desperate attempt at normalcy. Her fear and isolation are palpable as readers are pulled down a path from which there is no return, and the impact of hoarding on one teen’s life will have readers completely hooked.
Dirty Little Secrets was one of the most original and emotional reads I’ve read in a long time. From the first page I was drawn in by Lucy’s personal narration and by the end I was at the edge of my seat wanting to know how everything was going to end up. Hoarding is something I’ve never been aware of or at least never understood the seriousness of. I’d always joked around that my family didn’t throw anything out when they saved a few of my kindergarten drawings. Now I realize how serious a disorder compulsive hoarding really is. Omololu pulls in the reader into Lucy’s life, living her life hour after hour as she deals with the tremendous hardships of her mother’s hoarding and the tragedy that follows. The most amazing thing, to me, about this novel was how it took place over the course of 24 hours. It seems like this would allow barely any time for character or plot development, but instead it allows quite a bit. By the end I felt like Lucy was someone I’d known all my life. There were quite a few flashbacks that helped you to better understand what was going on and to realize how her mother’s hoarding began.
I had to question Lucy’s actions quite a few times while reading, but I could understand why she acted the way she did. If anyone found out about how she lived, chaos would begin. The world is not accustomed to discovering people live in the kind of filth Lucy and her family did. I felt like Kaylie would have understand Lucy’s dilemma and even helped her work through it, but after loosing one dishonest best friend, I could understand Lucy’s wariness to let anyone else in. The vivid descriptions of the inside of Lucy’s home were horrifying and her mother’s denial that there was anything wrong was even scarier. You could definitely see there was something psychologically wrong with her and that the hoarding could be genetic, as mentions of Lucy’s grandmother also hoarding appeared. Lucy’s mother kept worthless garbage, literally pieces of trash, old newspapers, plastic bags, and more. Mold and maggots were even located inside.
I really liked Josh, and although Lucy and his relationship didn’t have as big a part in the beginning, by the end Josh had a bigger role. The ending was where most of the action happened. Although throughout the book smaller excitements happened, it was the end that really had me on the edge of my seat. I was reading this in the car on the way home from work Saturday and I was gasping and reacting to everything that was happening, my Mom was even getting into it. I had to reread everything to make sure I wasn’t missing a single sentence and by the last few pages I knew what Lucy had to do and how Dirty Little Secrets was going to end. It was an ending so…unique and emotional, but it was the only way for it to end. I would have liked a little more closure on Lucy and her family and friends, but I know this is how Lucy’s story needed to end.
I applaud Ms. Omololu for writing a story so different, so informative, so sad, and yet so powerful it could change peoples lives. I’m eagerly anticipating her next release and hope it will open my eyes to yet another topic I’d never known about. Dirty Little Secrets is a 5 star read I recommend you picking up soon!
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
February 2, 2010/Walker BFYR/212 Pages/Young Adult