Title: Dirty Little Secrets
Author: C. J. Omololu
Another winner from the 2010 debut authors! I am so impressed with the books I have read so far that now I am freaking out because there is no way I can read them all. I will give it my best shot, though, and try to work my way through as many as I can.
From the back of the book:
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.
Wow, this book was intense! Lucy is so afraid that her secret will become front page news in the local paper that she does some really awful things. Her mom is lying dead in the hallway, but Lucy doesn’t reach for her cell phone. Oh, no, instead, she races out to purchase trash bags and starts trying to clean up the mess that is the family home. Lucy has lived with piles and piles of garbage her entire life, and it is something that embarrasses and humiliates her. She can never have friends over, she never dared to move or throw any of the trash out where it belongs because her mom would go ballistic, and now that it looks like the overwhelming piles of junk has contributed to her mother’s tragic demise, she can’t even feel sad about it. Instead, she is more concerned about making sure the neighbors never find out about the mess she has been forced to wallow in for all of these years.
The book takes place over the course of a little over a day, and my goodness, is it an emotion packed 24 hours. The pacing rides a razor’s edge, as Lucy attempts to justify to herself her own actions. The book works because she is such a sympathetic character. All she wants is a normal life, in surroundings where she doesn’t have to worry about being buried under mounds of garbage. The relationship with her mother is strained at best, and when we first meet Lucy, she is just counting down the days until she graduates from school and can be free of her mother and her hoarding. The strain of having to deal with her mother’s mental illness has taken its toll on her, and Lucy can’t even find it within herself to grieve. Instead, she has a compulsive urge to save herself and to save her mother’s reputation from gossip.
When I first heard about this book, I wasn’t the least bit interested in reading it. I didn’t think I could ever understand how the protagonist could just leave her mother dead in the hallway while she tries to clean up the reeking mess surrounding her. After reading a few reviews, I changed my mind and decided to give it a go. I could not put this book down, and Lucy will stick with me for a long, long time. Her motivations make sense within the context of the story, and I even felt sorry for her as she tries to dig herself out of the nightmare that her life has become.
Dirty Little Secrets is a unique, engrossing story. Lucy’s fear of being labeled a freak has kept her isolated for her entire life, and when the chance comes along to be "normal," she jumps up and grabs at it with both hands. Lonely and with no one to confide in, her desperation will leave you haunted.
Review copy provided by publisher