Thursday, 16 December 2010

Review: Dirty Little Secrets

Dear Blog,
Because I refuse to give up the 2010 Debut Author Challenge, however much I'm failing.

Summary (from Goodreads):  Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others.
For sixteen years, Lucy has kept her mother's hoarding a secret. She's had to -- nobody would understand the stacks of newspapers and mounds of garbage so high they touch the ceiling and the rotting smell that she's always worried would follow her out the house. After years of keeping people at a distance, she finally has a best friend and maybe even a boyfriend if she can play it right. As long as she can make them think she's normal.
When Lucy arrives home from a sleepover to find her mother dead under a stack of National Geographics, she starts to dial 911 in a panic, but pauses before she can connect. She barely notices the filth and trash anymore, but she knows the paramedics will. First the fire trucks, and then news cameras that will surely follow. No longer will they be remembered as the nice oncology nurse with the lovely children -- they'll turn into that garbage-hoarding freak family on Collier Avenue.
With a normal life finally within reach, Lucy has only minutes to make a critical decision. How far will she go to keep the family secrets safe?

Review: Whoah. Hang on a minute.  Let me just collect my thoughts together.
Okay.  Now I can begin.
Wow.  Dirty Little Secrets is the most shocking, disgusting and fast-paced novel I've read in a long time- the sort of book that you long to stop reading yet you can't not read on. 

It reminds me a lot of Gayle Forman's If I Stay.  It's set over 24 hours or so, with lots of flashbacks here and there to add extra dimensions to the story.  And unlike many books with flashbacks, in Dirty Little Secrets these little elements of the past are relevant. They give some more background to Lucy's mother's compulsive hoarding, seeing as she's dead for most of the book that takes place in the present. 

Lucy was one of those characters that you couldn't not dislike.  Not with everything that happened to her.  Her voice was clear and direct, even in descriptions never straying away from what needed to be said.  She seemed kind of tough and cynical, I suppose, slightly bitter and even snarky in a way, but she did have underneath all that an interior which was so real and true, that showed that she really did feel
Her mother.  My reaction towards her is kind mixed; do I pity her, or do I just loathe her for messing Lucy's life in such a way? Both, probably, at different times.  The flashbacks portrayed her in the past; but it's hard to see who she was in the present (yeah, you've probably got some clever answer for that)- perhaps who she was would have been different to who she is.  Was, I mean, seeing as she was dead. I'm confused.  Moving swiftly on.
Speaking of family- one of my favourite scenes in the book was actually when Lucy's sister  Sara came to visit while she was frantically trying to clear out the house.  I don't know why, but the glimpse into Sara's car...It gave me chills.  I could just see the whole book playing out again, providing that she had a daughter of her own.  I guess it shows how things can appear to be so natural and how the environment can have such an effect on a childhood.

While I'm on this scene, I'll say that the reason it struck me so much was the way it was written.  The writing style was fantastic, for lack of a better word.  You know how some writing styles can be absolutely perfect for the subject matter (examples: Jinx, Green Angel, The Book of Everything)?  Well, Dirty Little Secrets is exactly like that.  C.J. Omololu seems to follow the rule don't use two words when one will do, or don't use a longer one in place of a shorter, but still the descriptions of the house are excellent.  Though one can't be achieved without the other, I'm not a fan of tidiness so much of minimalism, and standing in empty rooms make me happy.  So some of the scenes described made me feel almost claustrophobic, in a way.  I've never wanted to be sucked into a book so much; how I'd want to get into that house and try and restore things to order.  Even though I am unbelievably squeamish and one of those people who if she encounters a spider runs as far away as possible in the nearest direction.  But the way it was written; the descriptions of the house, of Lucy's despair and resentment, the flashbacks; I didn't need to wish that I could be there to attempt to turn things around.  More often than not, I was there. 

The ending.  Hmm.  It was, I suppose, fitting to the rest of the book; brief, rushed, and totally shocking.  But I can't help but ask: Did it really resolve things?  Not entirely, I don't think.   It's hard to discuss too deeply without giving too many things away, which is something I would not want to do.  I'll leave you to make up your mind about it; and I'm not sure I'm a hundred percent convinced.  It resolved things, sort of...for the time being.  One word: Sequel.
Oh my God yes.

To conclude; despite what may or may not be a slightly disappointing ending, Dirty Little Secrets is an excellent, excellent book that shouldn't be missed among the hordes of awesome debuts- no pun intended- that have been released this year. 

In Three Words: Shocking, disgusting, powerful.
Recommended for: Everyone.  Seriously.
Rating : 5


  1. Dirty Little Secrets sounds interesting, but kind of depressing! Who wants to live in a house where one can barely walk from one room to the next?
    You made some good points in your review. I think I'll have to try to find this book for myself...

  2. Ooh. Interesting. Especially considering that I agree with just about every review in your blog. But I HATED Dirty Little Secrets (actually, that's not even true - I just hated the main character). I'm not even sure if I can explain why. I think it had something to do with the fact that, as I was reading it, I felt this frantic urge to slap some sense into Lucy; I just think every choice she made was wrong. I dunno, maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have a hoarder in the family, and our way of dealing with this problem has been completely, totally different. It was an incredibly well-written book, don't get me wrong, and I can certainly identify with your urge to show up in that house and fix everything, but I was just not able to like Lucy at all.


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