Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets

Omololu, C.J. Dirty Little Secrets. New York: Walker and Company, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit: librarything.com/work/8879218]

From the outside, Lucy's life looks pretty normal. She's a junior; she babysits the neighborhood kids; she spends a lot of time at her best friend's house; she has a crush on a guy who plays in a band. What Lucy knows, and tries to hide, is a lot less normal. She could never date Josh Lee, his hotness unattainable; she loves her best friend, but she also stays at her house so much because it has a working shower; she needs to make and hide her own money, because her mom never has any money left after buying all her "collectibles." And the worst truth of all, Lucy has two years left before she can move out and start a new life away from her mother's hoarding.

When Lucy's mother dies under a stack of National Geographic's that she was saving "to go through later," Lucy, rather than being sad, sees a chance at salvation, but is she a horrible person if she takes it?

It is so easy to say, "If I found my mother, dead, I would call an ambulance." Clearly, right? Opening all the windows to let in the winter air and postpone decomp is not everyone's immediate response. It's not Lucy's either. She almost dials 9-1-1. When she doesn't, it's really easy to be shocked at Lucy's callousness towards her mother. What Omololu does marvelously is to take us from this extreme opening moment and then work backwards to slowly introduce us to Lucy's life. She makes Lucy's decision make sense.

Because this story, most of which spans 21 very tense hours, is told by Lucy, things that she takes for granted, like the lack of hot water or heat in her house are treated as blasé. She is nervous, beyond belief scared, that people will find out about her home life; she knows it's not normal. At the same time, it is normal for her and treated as such. Her interactions with her surroundings, as well as with her older siblings, one of whom has hoarding tendencies herself and the other who resents their mother for the breakdown of the family, reflect that. It is the honest of Lucy's reactions and reality that make this such an engaging book.

From the beginning you'll want Lucy to have a chance at a normal life, and by the end I think you'll agree with the lengths that she must go to in order to get one.

Book source: Philly Free Library

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