Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book Review: Dirty Little Secrets, by C.J. Omololu (Walker Books for Young Readers, 2011)

Recommended  for ages 14+.

When you grow up with a hoarder, you learn to bury your own secrets.
Dirty Little Secrets examines the effect of hoarding on a teen. Lucy has almost given up hope on having a normal life; her mother’s hoarding has gotten out of control, making Lucy afraid to have friends, for fear they’ll want to come to her house. She has been bullied and teased, called “Garbage Girl” and forced to change schools. When she is at home, her mother verbally attacks her, making her feel responsible for the mess. Her older brother and sister are out of the house, leaving Lucy to deal with her mother.
Most of Dirty Little Secrets takes place in an eight-and- one-half-hour period where Lucy, who has dared to make another friend and even cultivate a boyfriend, arrives home to get ready for a concert and a date. She discovers her mother dead, a victim of her hoard, and she panics at having her mother’s shame revealed. She knows it will be on the news, and Lucy will be “garbage girl” all over again. Deciding to hold off on calling the authorities until she can clean the house enough to let the authorities in, she gets to work. She decides to hold off on reporting her mother’s death until she can clean the house enough to let authorities in. As Lucy attempts to clean, memories of her mother’s hoarding and its effect on her life come up, giving the reader an inside view of how her mother’s illness affected Lucy’s entire life.
Dirty Little Secrets is a powerful read that provides insight into the effects of hoarding on those who live with hoarders. Lucy is bullied and teased once her mother’s secret gets out; it becomes so bad that she has to leave her school and start over. Her mother verbally abuses her, blaming her for hiding things and making messes. Her siblings are no help. Ms. Omololu’s writing provokes a strong reader reaction, eliciting sympathy for Lucy and frustration with the obstacles in her way. Using a relatively short time frame during which the novel takes place, the author uses flashbacks to provide a depth to the story. The characters have enough backstory to further the plot, leaving the reader possibly wanting more from this fast-moving story. The ending, while appearing a bit rushed, is in line with Lucy’s rising panic throughout the book.
Dirty Little Secrets has received numerous accolades, including the American Library Association's ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers list, ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee, ALA Quick Pick nominee, Texas Tayshas Reading List (2011), Florida Teens Read List, Nominee: South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, Texas Lone Star Reading List, Kentucky Bluegrass Award, Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers, Arkansas Teen Book Award, and the Elliott Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award.
Author C.J. Omololu’s website offers links to information and reading guides on her books, a link to her blog, and an “After” chapter for anyone who wants to know what happens to Lucy after the climax of Dirty Little Secrets.

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