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Dirty little secrets

Publication Information:
New York : Walker & Co., 2010.
Physical Description:
212 pages ; 22 cm
When her unstable mother dies unexpectedly, sixteen-year-old Lucy must take control and find a way to keep the long-held secret of her mother's compulsive hoarding from being revealed to friends, neighbors, and especially the media.
Reading Level:
Young Adult.


Call Number

On Order



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. Tackling an increasingly discussed topic that is both fascinating and disturbing, C. J. Omololu weaves an hour-by-hour account of Lucy's desperate attempt to save her family. Readers join Lucy on a path from which there is no return, and the impact of hoarding on one teen's life will have them completely hooked.

Praise for Dirty Little Secrets:

"Shocking, tragic, desperate, and believable. . . . a valuable new addition to heartbreaking but honest books about teens." -School Library Journal

"An emotionally charged novel. . .readers will be rapt." -Kirkus Reviews

"A disturbing appraisal of how a mother's obsessive hoarding affects her teenage daughter in this frank novel." -Publishers Weekly

Author Notes

Cynthia Jaynes Omololu was born in New Jersey on July 14, 1966. She received a degree in English from the University of California Santa Barbara. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked for a San Francisco weekly newspaper in advertising and was a stay-at-home mom. Her first book, When it's Six O'clock in San Francisco, was published in 2009. Her young adult novels include Dirty Little Secrets, Transcendence, Intuition, and The Third Twin. She died of cancer on December 31, 2015.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Lucy keeps a horrendous secret. At her old school, it accidentally slipped that her mother's obsessive hoarding forced Lucy, her brother, and her sister to live in the midst of endless stacks of junk and filth, earning Lucy the nickname "garbage girl." Now, starting her junior year in a new school, she has a great best friend, a potential boyfriend of her dreams, and no one gets to see the interior of her house. Since her older siblings have moved out and her father is remarried, she lives alone with her unstable mother-until the night Lucy comes home and finds that the woman has died in the rubble. She panics about reporting the death, because then everyone will discover the truth about their living conditions. Lucy's attempts to clear the massive amounts of trash from the house, to no avail, lead to an ultimate "solution" that is shocking, tragic, desperate, and believable. Characters, situations, and settings are vivid, and dialogue rings true. As the teen tries to dispose of the debris before calling the police, effective and well-placed flashbacks triggered by unearthed items link her remembrances about what brought the house to its present condition and reflect her feelings about tense and frustrating parental and sibling relationships. As a valuable new addition to heartbreaking but honest books about teens immersed in emotionally distressed families, like Nancy Werlin's The Rules of Survival (Dial, 2006), this potent and creatively woven page-turner brings a traumatic situation front and center.-Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, CO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Debut author Omololu gives a disturbing appraisal of how a mother's obsessive hoarding affects her teenage daughter in this frank novel that spans a tense 24-hour period. The grief 16-year-old Lucy experiences when her mother dies suddenly at home is overshadowed by her dread that paramedics and the general public will learn her family's secret: they've been living amid piles of filth due to her mother's refusal to ever throw anything away. ("The last repairman didn't get past the front hallway before realizing the place was too full of crap to even get near the hot water heater," Lucy remembers.) Lucy's decision to clean up the mess before notifying authorities may seem ill-founded and unbelievable to some, but readers will feel compassion for her as she recalls how her mother's compulsive behavior has cost her friendships and a normal social life, as well as posing health risks. Tension intensifies as the clean-up process proves even more overwhelming than Lucy imagined. Her determination to erase the past may lead to debates about whether Lucy's motives are rooted in selfishness, shame, or love. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

When sixteen-year-old Lucy's mother, a hoarder, suddenly dies, Lucy is concerned that the world will learn her family's shameful secret. Faced with the decision of whether or not to allow people to see the horror house she lives in, Lucy makes a drastic choice. Omololu's convincing use of flashbacks sheds light on the hidden lives of hoarders and their families. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

An emotionally charged noveldealing withthe issue of compulsive hoarding tells the story of a girl forced to make an agonizing decision in this nicely realized page-turner. Sixteen-year-old Lucy has been painfully isolated from her peers for years, refusing to let anyone near her house lest they discover the towers of garbage andheaps of mold-encrusted dishes. Outwardly highly functional, her mother maintains the dysfunction in their home with an obsessive grip. When Lucy returns from a friend's house one morningand discovers her mother dead of an asthma attack, she is poised to call 911 but quickly realizes this will expose the secret that her mother (and Lucy herself) worked so hard to protect.A growing public awareness of this disorderwill produce many curious readers, and they will not be disappointedLucy issympathetic and real, her brother and sister equally believable.Her mother is a multidimensional, complicated character. Quick chapters throttle toward an unexpected and morally ambiguous ending that some may feel leaves too many questions unanswered. Nonetheless, readers will be rapt. (Fiction. 12 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Lucy has a secret: her mother is a compulsive hoarder. Her older siblings have moved out, and Lucy has never let her friends come over to see the towering piles of paper, clothes, and trash that cover every surface and block all but narrow passages through the house. Then she returns home to find her mother dead from an asthma attack, and she feels numb: Maybe after, I could be sad. But not now. The 24 hours following her mother's passing bring one misguided attempt after another as Lucy tries to clean up, hide the truth about her mother's compulsions, and save her family's reputation. The premise seems far-fetched, but the problem of hoarding is real for many households, as the Web site listed in the acknowledgments substantiates. Lucy's range of emotions is clearly presented, as is her fear that her family's secret sets her apart from others: It made us too different. Her final blazing act to ensure a normal life is upsetting but should provoke discussion.--Dobrez, Cindy Copyright 2009 Booklist