Everyone has secrets. That's what Lucy tells herself, but she can't imagine that anyone at school or in her town has as big a secret as she does. Her mom is a hoarder (or a 'collector,' as her mom calls it), and their house is filled floor-to-ceiling with piles of junk, garbage, and who knows what. Lucy is the only child left at home; her sister and brother have already moved away, and she only has two years until she can move away, too. Then her mother dies, and Lucy is terrified that everyone will find out their secret. She has worked so hard to look and act normal to her friends, her teachers, and the guy she has a crush on - if this dirty little secret comes out, what will it mean for Lucy?
For this book to work it was crucial for me to feel for Lucy, and I did. Like Karl in Tales of the Madman Underground, she's a kid who can't be a kid because she is too busy dealing with the life that her mother has made. I thought that Omololu did a great job at presenting her mother's actions as abuse, and showing how the pattern of abuse can go from generation to generation. Some passages hit a little unsettlingly close to home (like Lucy's comment that her mother could never throw out a good box - neither can I!), making me very aware of my own attitude to my surrounding. I grew up in a house where I couldn't always bring people home because of how it looked, but it was nothing compared to Lucy's situation. Her mom wages a psychological war on Lucy that manifests itself through Lucy having sub-zero self-esteem. I was surprised by the end of the book but really hope that it brings Lucy peace. This book is timely but I didn't find it sensationalist; at several points in the credits and acknowledgments Omololu references Children of Horders.
Visit C.J. Omololu's site.
Find it at IndieBound.
Read it with:
Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
Blue Plate Special by Anna D. Kwasney
Coming Clean: Dirty Little Secrets from a Professional Housecleaner by Schar Ward
Big Slick by Eric Luper
Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein