Dirty Little Secrets by: Cynthia Omololu

[credit: Goodreads.com]

[credit: Goodreads.com]


Quick Summary: Lucy is sixteen year old girl who lives at home with her mother. Both siblings, much older then herself, have moved out years before and have a ‘touch & go’ relationship with her. Like most teenagers Lucy worries about boys, friends, and her mother. However, the worry stems from something deeper and sadder then the average teenager. Lucy’s mother is a hoarder and has been since she could recall. With carefully scripted conversations and excuses, she has avoided anyone from finding out her secret. How long can she hold out though before it all comes tumbling down around her?

Overall the book was-OK. It wasn’t fabulous but it wasn’t awful. It is a rather short book (clocking a little over 200 pages in the paperback) so it wasn’t difficult to get through. Lucy is a character you feel sympathetic for because of her situation. She has to carefully construct her life outside of the house so no one discovers the trash she lives in, this leads to low self esteem and a very small social circle. Her siblings only advice is to stick it out for two more years till she graduates, just like they did. Her father is out of the picture, so there is really no one for her to turn to. If she called the police about it, they’d just send her to a home. So it’s a mix of pride, loyalty, and fear that Lucy stays in her home with her mother. 

Lucy’s mother has a different life and personality outside of the home. She works at a hospital as a nurse where she is loved and revered, everyone thinking she is a hard working normal single mother. At home she is very different, obviously, with her saving ‘treasures’ and blowing up at anyone who thinks of moving them around or heaven forbid throwing it out. I felt a mix of disgust (in her parental duties) and sadness (for her issue). Like many in her situation they refuse to see they have a problem and become emotionally attached to all items because of something tragic that occurred in their life. Sadly, this all falls down onto Lucy’s shoulders. 

Her friend (what seems like only friend) is peppy and truly likes Lucy, thinking her mother has an illness which is why no one is allowed over. She just wasn’t told the exact truth of the illness. She looks out for Lucy trying to break her out of her quiet solitude shell by taking her out to the movies and trying to hook her up with boys. Overall not a wholly developed character, but well enough to show how Lucy acts outside of the house. 

The small romance in the book is well paced and believable, the awkward teenage situations really coming to life. It wasn’t overblown and it actually fit into the story well. It just added another thing/person for Lucy to ponder and stress on with her home life. Another aspect of her world outside the house she doesn’t want to lose.

I think the overall plot is an interesting idea, but the story itself felt a little stagnant. I found myself more then a few times skimming over a few paragraphs. The flashbacks are a nice touch and show a bit how things got to the point that they are at, and just how bad they have gotten in the past. The whole pace of the book is a little slow, the climaxes not really peaking all that much, just kind of rolling on in. It does cover only a short amount of time though, so perhaps that is the cause. I do like how descriptive Lucy gets when she tries to see her house as an outsider would. It really gives a good mental image of how gross the entire home is, and makes you feel even sadder for the though of children growing up in that environment.  

The ending was a little bit of a surprise, more of just a ‘huh, I guess that’s one way to go about it.’ I’m not sure exactly how I feel towards Lucy about the whole thing. I can see why she did it after all the work she went through and what she would of had to go through had she not. Her dignity as well as her family’s (mother & siblings) were on the line. It was a lot of pressure for a sixteen year old to handle for herself. It was nice that it had a definitive ending, though one does wonder what will happen to Lucy when everything would eventually settle down. Had she gone a different route, a slightly more realistic one, things could have gone totally differently. Yet, maybe for a sixteen year old who feels there is no way out, this could seem plausible?

An interesting book on a topic most only get to know about due to a TV show, (which I am not in favor of, it seems to me it shames the people it shows too much). Quick read, not too shabby, not often spoken about topic.

3.5/5 rating. 


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