Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dirty Little Secrets

Dirty Little Secrets is a book that sits on your chest and feels heavy the entire time you are reading it, but in the best possible way. It's a strange description but exactly how I feel, having just finished the book a few minutes ago. This is a novel that will stay with me for a long time.

C.J. Omololu has written about a topic I've never seen covered in YA lit before: what it is like to grow up with a hoarder for a parent. Lucy's mom has filled their house with stacks of newspapers, clothing, old food, and garbage. While her older siblings managed to flee, Lucy is forced to lie and compartmentalize her life to hide her mother's secret. When Lucy begins to sift through the accumulated objects in their house, she has flashbacks to heartbreaking memories revolving around her life imprisoned by her mother's "stuff".

I loved the characterization in Dirty Little Secrets, particularly of Lucy and her mother. Parental addiction is a major theme in YA novels, but this particular addiction and Omololu's strong writing make it fresh. After becoming accustomed to Lucy's mother as a hoarder, I was shocked to learn that she was an oncology nurse. The fact that it wasn't just Lucy who was living a double life was poignant and shows that hoarding really is an addiction.

Lucy's efforts to maintain appearances hurt my heart. The work involved in hiding her mother's addiction is exhausting and gave me a lot to think about, as a teacher. After finishing the novel, I watched an episode of "Hoarders" online and saw that over three million people are afflicted with this disorder. At some point, I am going to have a student who is touched by hoarding and am so grateful that Dirty Little Secrets will be in my library.

1 comment:

  1. I bought this book, but haven't read it yet. My family had a hoarder situation about 9 years ago. I didn't know about the condition until it happened. I want to read how a teen deals with a hoarder parent.

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