Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others.
For sixteen years, Lucy has kept her mother's hoarding a secret. She's had to -- nobody would understand the stacks of newspapers and mounds of garbage so high they touch the ceiling and the rotting smell that she's always worried would follow her out the house. After years of keeping people at a distance, she finally has a best friend and maybe even a boyfriend if she can play it right. As long as she can make them think she's normal.
When Lucy arrives home from a sleepover to find her mother dead under a stack of National Geographics, she starts to dial 911 in a panic, but pauses before she can connect. She barely notices the filth and trash anymore, but she knows the paramedics will. First the fire trucks, and then news cameras that will surely follow. No longer will they be remembered as the nice oncology nurse with the lovely children -- they'll turn into that garbage-hoarding freak family on Collier Avenue.
With a normal life finally within reach, Lucy has only minutes to make a critical decision. How far will she go to keep the family secrets safe? (From Goodreads)
Anyone who's heard of hoarding knows that it typically stems from a mental health issue. They also know that it's a very serious problem. Omololu does a great job of describing what hoarding is like, and how it can affect children in hoarding homes. In some cases, the children grow up to be hoarders themselves, but in Dirty Little Secrets, Lucy is waiting until she's 18 so she can move out and have a normal life.
Lucy's struggle over the course of the book was an interesting one. She's managed to hide her mother's hoarding problem from her best friend, but it's added another level of stress to her life. After Lucy finds her mother dead, everything begins to fall apart. She doesn't want her family to become a news story, so she decides to clean her house before she calls 911. As this mission becomes increasingly impossible, Lucy has to decide what's most important to her.
Quite honestly, this story is heartbreaking. Omololu gives the reader information about what caused Lucy's mother to begin hoarding, and the reader gets to see how this issue has progressed. In fact, there's one scene where Lucy recalls cleaning out the house with her aunt to surprise her mother who had been in the hospital (hint: the big reveal did not go well). Seeing the interaction between Lucy, and her mother was also sad. There seemed to be a bit of resentment for both of the characters, and that was never resolved. It's also got an ending that will make you think. I think that every reader will have to decide whether they would have made the same choice as Lucy, or decided to go down a different route. Unfortunately that's a little vague, but I don't want to spoil anything for reader.
This was a great read, but it wasn't always a happy one. There aren't fuzzy kittens, and gentle ponies in this one. Still, don't be afraid to pick it up. It's a fairly quick read, and Omololu does an excellent job depicting hoarding.
Dirty Little Secrets
By C.J. Omololu
Published by Walker Books