Nobody did anything as stupid as calling the police.


Now we make you ugly,, begins this novel of the life of Ladydi Garcia Martinez, a young girl living in Guerrero, a province in Mexico on the border of the United States and in the heart of the Mexican drug cartels. The cartel thugs make a practice of kidnapping the prettiest of the young girls and reselling them among themselves for pleasure, if you can call it that, and for profit as prostitutes wherever the opportunity presents. Ladydi is five when her mother making her “ugly” becomes her first memory, along with the hole her mother digs in the backyard for Ladydi to hide in when the cartel kidnappers show up prospecting for kidnappees. She escapes. Her friend Paula is not so lucky, but

Nobody did anything as stupid as calling the police.

The cartels also kidnap the men to work in the marijuana grows, so the smart ones head north to the US. Some of them send money home. Some of them don’t, marrying and starting new families in el norte. So basically Guerrero is a state without men, just women and girls made ugly or disguised as boys. Ladydi’s life takes an unexpected twist when she and her mother, so desperate to find a better life, take the word of the highly unreliable Miguel to get Ladydi a job working as a maid for, of course, another drug cartel member, because really, who else in Guerrero can afford to hire anyone?

I admit, it is difficult for me to contain my rage as I write this review. Clement says in an afterword

In Mexico today women are stolen off the street or taken from their houses at gunpoint. Some women never return home from their workplace, a party, or walking to the corner. They are all young and poor and pretty.

so the reader has absolutely no excuse not to believe every word of the events of this novel. It is very well written, too, which doesn’t help. We don’t know really how Ladydi’s story ends but you will wish fervently that all will be well with her and her wonderfully awful mother and her unexpected sister. And one does hope, somewhere off in the world of fiction where characters continue to live their lives? That her father rots eternally and most painfully in the worst circle of Dante’s hell.

All my Goodreads reviews here.

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