Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
Walker & Company, 2010
5 out of 5
From the outside, Lucy's home looks normal. Inside the front door is where the secrets begin. Towering piles of magazines. Bags of junk flooding every inch of open space. The rotting smell permeating the air. This is what she's kept from everyone--that her mother's compulsive hoarding has reduced their lives to garbage...literally.
With just two years until graduation, Lucy finally feels like a normal life is within her grasp. Her new best friend, Kaylie, and her longtime crush, Josh, make a future seem almost possible.
The one morning Lucy comes home to find something she never expected, something that will change her life forever. And she must ask herself--how far can she go to protect her family's secret?
This is currently the only title* that covers the topic of compulsive hoarding. This topic has increasingly been brought to the forefront with various TV shows literally airing out the dirty laundry of compulsive hoarders. The kids in these instances are affected by it, and although emotions are touched on, the problems usually focused on are health related and/or the threat of losing the children if the mess is not cleaned up.
Lucy's story is a different dynamic. She has been taught to live with while still being ashamed of her mother's secret. She fears the day that someone sees into the house and realizes the awful conditions in which she lives. She fears that day that the stink she's become accustomed to follows her to school and someone notices. I felt incredibly sad for Lucy. The only day she looks forward to is high school graduation, when she can just leave the mess behind like her older siblings.
Kaylie and Josh are excellent additions to the story. Kaylie stands by her side even though Lucy never asks her to spend the night and inexplicably and often bails out on plans. Josh and Lucy finally get some time to get to know each other, and Josh's candor about his own mother's affliction seems like it should be eye-opening for Lucy. You just want her to realize that she is not responsible for or defined by her mother's compulsive behavior.
But she can't. And so she must find a way to keep the secret forever.
This is a truly wonderful book. I love that a well-written, emotional title on this topic exists. I highly recommend it.
*At least not that I could find in my library or with WorldCat.
Disclosure: I borrowed this title from my local library. I'll be posting a modified version of this review to my library's website.