Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
Publisher:  Walker Books for Young Readers
Published:    February 2nd 2010

Hardcover, 212 pages

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?

Lucy, a sixteen year old, has a secret, one she struggles with every day to keep: her mother is a hoarder and they basically live in a house full of garbage from floor to ceiling. Lucy finally feels that she has a normal life outside of her home, or at least the start of a possible normal life: she has a new best friend and thinks that a boy she’s had a crush on for some time may like her too. Best of all, they don’t know her secret. That is until one day she finds her mother laying under a pile of National Geographics, dead. Afraid that everyone will discover her secret if she calls the cops and her family will be headlines on the news, she tells no one, including her brother and sister who are now living on their own. Lucy’s goal at this point is to clean the house to the point that others will just think that it is very messy, when she calls the cops. To do this, Lucy leaves her mother dead on the floor where she found her and works around her. During this time, she tries to keep the appearance that nothing is wrong by hanging out with her new best friend and finding that her crush likes her too. Unfortunately, Lucy might not be able to keep her family’s secret a secret any longer, unless she can find a way to fix it all.

C.J. Omololu does an amazing job of delving into the inner thoughts of those affected by family members who are sick with hoarding. She does this by telling Lucy’s story through Lucy’s own eyes, experiences, and feelings/reactions. To help build Lucy as a character, as well as her mother, Omololu gives us memories of events, showing Lucy’s complicated relationship with her mother while offering more of an understanding to her mother’s hoarding and how it affects those around her. This in turn makes Lucy and her story a very personal one.

I personally loved this book. I not only felt anger and frustration at Lucy’s mother in her hoarding but also with Lucy herself. I also felt understanding and sympathy for Lucy and her mother. Lucy grows very quickly in this novel, as she is forced to, and I found myself admiring her choices and reactions to her situation that her mother put her in. An amazing debut for Omololu! Can’t wait to see what she writes next.

My Rating