I wasn’t really interested in reading this book at first, just by the cover. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, I’m just not a fan of “untidy” and didn’t feel like reading a YA book about what I presumed to be a messy room that reflected the mess in a 6th grader’s life. I was later confused when I learned that the book revolved around the story of a hoarder–or the daughter of a hoarder. I hate to say this, but I genuinely thought that hoarders were just people that didn’t care about living in a mess and were just pack-rats. I never dreamed that hoarding is actually a seriously bad case of OCD and it is mentally hard to control. When I did realize all of this, I was intrigued. What could this book possibly be about? Hoarding can’t be *that* bad; those reality tv shows clearly exaggerate, right? Wrong.
The Opposite of Tidy is told from the point-of-view of Junie, a fifteen year old who is dealing with her parents’ divorce, her father moving in with her mother’s personal life coach, falling in love for the first time, and living in a house that is infested with rats and shit. I don’t mean shit in the “random stuff everywhere” sense, I mean shit in the “the basement is filled with faces” sense. She can’t stay with her father, because that would involve bearing life with That Woman. She can’t leave her mother, who is emotionally unstable and unhinged thanks to her obsession. She can barely tell her best friend the real situation her house is in because if she did, social services would bear down upon her and her mother and take Junie away. That is a lot to deal with for a fifteen year old, in case you didn’t notice. Naturally, when the boy of her dreams comes along, she begins to tell lies about her life–where she lives, who her mother is, etc. Unfortunately, nothing stays hidden for long and Junie’s lies explode loud enough for the whole town to know the truth. It’s a struggle between sticking the rough times out and hoping that life actually can change for the better versus running away and hiding from her problems.
Sometimes I was confused by Junie’s age. Her situation made her seem older than she was; at times I felt that she was seventeen. Her thoughts and personality were so easy to sink into and my heart went out to her. I was conflicted when she was conflicted, and momentarily happy when she was. Carrie Mac doesn’t hold back when discussing the ramifications of being a hoarder. I cringed a lot and genuinely felt sorry for Junie’s mother while still being utterly frustrated with her behaviour. So basically, I was mimicking everything Junie was feeling as I read. Mark of a good story? I’d say so.
It’s not your normal YA novel, really. I think anyone who reads this can identify to a character in this book, be it the mother, the father, Junie or her friends. I found it disturbing but important to learn what hoarding really is, specifically how it affects the victim as well as their loved ones. My mind kept jumping back to a subway poster I saw when I had just moved here. I can’t remember the name of the show, but it was a portrait of a family sitting pretty peacefully at a portion of a table. I say a portion because the rest was surrounded by random crap (this time stuff, not feces) and some scattered rats and roaches. It looked like the entire family was cool with the way they lived and were ready to get their fifteen minutes of fame for their disgusting lifestyle. To read a book that shows that hoarding isn’t always just a life choice and is emotionally (not to mention physically) dangerous for the hoarder and those around them was enlightening.
What I loved about the book was that it wasn’t heavy. Of course it was disturbing to read, and yes it was pretty realistic, but I still had fun reading it. If I tried to create a balance like that while writing a book, I’d fail miserably and then some. So kudos to Carrie Mac for writing a book that is appealing no matter what age you are and making a statement while keeping you hooked the entire time!