Review: Dirty Little Secrets

Everyone has a secret. But Lucy’s is bigger and dirtier than most. It’s one she’s been hiding for years—that her mom’s out-of-control hoarding has turned their lives into a world of garbage and shame. She’s managed to keep her home life hidden from her best friend and her crush, knowing they’d be disgusted by the truth. So, when her mom dies suddenly in their home, Lucy hesitates to call 911 because revealing their way of life would make her future unbearable—and she begins her two-day plan to set her life right.

With details that are as fascinating as they are disturbing, C. J. Omololu weaves an hour-by-hour account of Lucy’s desperate attempt at normalcy. Her fear and isolation are palpable as readers are pulled down a path from which there is no return, and the impact of hoarding on one teen’s life will have readers completely hooked.–From Amazon

C.J. Omololu’s Dirty Little Secrets is shocking. It will take your heart and stomach on a journey for which neither could be adequately prepared. Like 24 and Hoarders combined, the book moves you hour by hour through Lucy’s struggle to deal with her mother’s death without revealing her shameful family secret: a house overflowing with garbage, mold, and maggots. Through flashbacks, Lucy provides readers with a more in-depth understanding of her family history and the progression of her mother’s mental illness. Dirty Little Secrets is an astonishing debut novel that paints the most realistic fictional portrait of hoarding I have ever seen.

I rediscovered my love for fiction, and especially YA lit, a few years ago as a Psychology student. I had created an independent-study course for myself in which I was examining the portrayal of suicide in literature and film. Throughout the process, I discovered that art can tell us just as much about the human mind as science, if not more. Dirty Little Secrets proves this to be true. If you want to understand the psychopathology of a hoarder and the impact it has on her family, I would argue that reading this book will tell you far more than the DSM.

Beyond the horrifyingly accurate representation of obsessive-compulsive hoarding, Omololu also manages to build a heart-wrenching story about friendship and love. Each of the minor characters felt just as three-dimensional as the main ones. Omololu is a master of voice, revealing a great deal about Lucy’s neighbors, friend, love interest, brother, sister, and aunt within just a few short lines. This isn’t a long book, but like Lucy’s house, so much is packed into such a small space.

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