Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: The Opposite of Tidy by Carrie Mac

by Carrie Mac
Release Date: June 10th, 2012
2012 Razorbill
Softcover Edition; 361 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-14-318091-3
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Contemporary
Source: Review Copy from Penguin

3.5 / 5 Stars

Fifteen-year-old Junie is barely coping. Her mother has started sleeping in the chair in front of the TV, and the house is so packed with junk, newspapers, cupboard organizers and other helpful items from the Shopping Channel that she can barely get in the front door.

So when Wade Jaffre, the hot new guy at school, offers her a ride home from school, it seems too good to be true. But as they approach her house, her parents are outside, screaming at each other. Junie doesn’t have to think twice about directing him on to her best friend Tabitha’s house, nor about continuing the charade of pretending she lives there.

Tabitha and her mother are understanding—and willing to go along, for the moment. But as the weeks go by, Junie’s lies start piling up and the opportunity to tell the truth seems to slip away. Until the day Junie’s world—and her mother’s—is literally turned inside out for the world to see, and Junie and her mother must face the consequences of her mother’s illness ... and the lies they both told to hide it.

My Thoughts
The Opposite of Tidy was an interesting, and heart-breaking, look at the life of a fifteen-year-old girl whose life has been completely turned upside down by her mother's hoarding, her father's denial and avoidance, and the lies she has told to keep the world from finding out what is truly happening at home.  It is inevitable that everything would soon come to a head, and this novel deals with the consequences of people of who don't face up to their problems and the long-term effects it can have on everyone around them.

I really enjoyed this novel and found the relationships among the characters to be interesting and rather complex.  This is not a situation to which I can relate, even though my grandmother was a bit of a hoarder; her hoarding never ran to the extreme such as this but was the result of the Great Depression and I learned very quickly as a child to check the expiry date on cans she set me to get in her basement.  This is extreme hoarding and there was one scene in particular that was quite disturbing (I wish I could describe it here, but it would spoil the novel).  The conversations about whether or not hoarding is a mental illness or not were very interesting, but I felt they didn't go far enough in this novel to really explain it fully as a mental illness.  I just felt it was somewhat on the light side and to me, there is nothing light about this.

Junie was very easy to empathize with and I felt so bad for her and the situation in which she found herself.  She is a young girl and many young people are not always fully aware of their options when it comes to getting help.  She realizes in this novel that she has often been left alone to parent herself and luckily she has a great friend to always stand beside her.  I felt for Tabitha as well as she wanted to intervene so often but was caught by the ties of friendship; she even admits that she should have done something a long time ago but it was difficult.  I wonder if that's why people don't always intervene, because they are afraid of doing so or because they are too close to the situation and kind of put blinders on to what is happening.  I see it all the time in my job as I deal with young people on a daily basis.  While it was nice to see Junie's mom get some help, I did feel like the ending was a wrapped up a little too easily and too quickly.  I can't really put my finger on it and I don't want to give away too much, but although it's acknowledged that it takes years of therapy for people to resolve their issues in regards to hoarding, I just felt like things ended on too 'sweet' of a note.  

The Opposite of Tidy takes a look at a much-needed mental illness, from the viewpoint of the children.  Junie was someone in whom I could easily relate as I understood her anger and her fear that someone would discover her big secret and her shame.  The writing style was light and easy, almost too light for some of the content presented in this novel, and I thought the concept of mental illness surrounding hoarding could have been delved into a big more.  That being said, I would recommend this book as I truly enjoyed reading it.  I honestly cannot imagine anyone living like this and I hope that this novel opens people's eyes to anyone they think might have a hoarding problem and to somehow get them the help they need.