DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omolulu
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Pub. Date: February 2010
(Also Available in Paperback, Audio and Electronic Formats)
Age Group: Young Adult +
Review: I recently picked up DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omolulu from the library. I’d noticed the book around the blogosphere and was extremely intrigued by the plot, so I thought I would give it a shot.
The main protagonist, Lucy Tompkins lives a secret life. She’s quiet, alone and deathly afraid that anyone might find out about her home life. Her mother, Joanna is a hoarder. Not just a collector, as she refers to herself, or a messy pack-rat but a hoarder of everything, including garbage. Lucy and her mother live in utter filth.
I felt sorry that Lucy has to live this way. I know many people in real life live this way. I’ve watched the television show, Hoarders on A & E. Since watching the program, I’ve found it fascinating that hoarding is an addiction and an emotional and psychological disease. And it’s usually caused by a traumatic event in the hoarders life that leads them to be this way. This is clear with Lucy’s mother whose husband left her. She was also in a bad accident. One day, Lucy comes home to a shocking discovery and makes a decision which changes her life forever.
The discovery — Lucy finds her mother dead — and Lucy’s situation held my interest. However, Lucy doesn’t do anything in the novel but complain about her situation and her lack of friends and boyfriends because she doesn’t want anyone to find out about her home. I can never imagine what it’s like for someone to live with a hoarder of this nature. But I wanted Lucy to have some semblance of self-esteem. Then again, how could she when she’s lived with garbage climbing toward the ceilings her whole life? It’s extremely difficult to have self-esteem when you surrounded by mountains of junk.
But how does Lucy know that her friends will disappear or that her crush, Josh, won’t like her anymore if they discover her “dirty” secret? Yes, it happened once before, but that was when she was younger. Maybe the people she knows now are different? Maybe they will reach out to her and help her? Her sister and brother, who are both on their own, certainly don’t help. The one thing that bothers me is the story is all about Lucy. Her intent is to help her family, but I’m not sure the decision she makes will necessarily do the trick. It very well might get her in trouble, especially with the police, and would be even worse than someone discovering she lives in a filthy house.
The characters in DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS could have been developed more and the plot is somewhat thin because it centers around an entire event which is interesting, but there were some holes in it.
I’m not sure I am completely satisfied by the novel’s ending, either. The author has worked with children of hoarders. Perhaps, the decision Lucy makes in DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is something the author has seen. But to me, it wasn’t realistic because there are no consequences for Lucy’s actions. I also felt bad for Lucy’s mother. Even though she’s a different person at work than she is at home — like many hoarders are. She needs major help. Lucy is just as damaged and broken as her mother. To me, Lucy doesn’t see the other options out there.
I wanted to learn something from this story and feel emotionally invested in it. But by the end I felt Lucy gets away with too much. She is selfish and only cares about one thing — TV camera crews showing up at her house because the guy who likes her will find out and not like her anymore. To me, Lucy is just a character who lives in a house with a hoarder. I wish the story was different. I like the way the book is set up into hours like a ticking clock. The book is also filled with flashbacks which show some character development, but the theme of the story feel short for me.
It would be more interesting if DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS centers on a teenager (Lucy) who lives in this house with her mother who is a hoarder and how she tries to get out of the situation through being involved in school, extracurricular activities, having friends and eventually telling someone her secret. Then, Lucy and her mother can get help. I felt stuck just like Lucy. Maybe this was the author’s intent, but Lucy’s actions, her discovery and how she deals with it, caused me not care about them. Lucy does get out of her situation, however, the way in which is done is flat out wrong and should have been handled differently — at least in my opinion.
I’m giving DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS 3.5 “Relaxing with a Good Book” retro pictures for being not what I had hoped.
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