When I first read the synopsis for Mud Lilies by Indra Ramayan I thought it sounded really interesting, but I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did or to get as hooked as I did.
Mud Lilies follows Chanie Nyrider, a teenager with a traumatic past and even more troubling present. Following the tragic death of her father, Chanie was left with her emotionally abusive mother and abusive stepfather. When she is 14, she runs away from home after being raped, thinking anything is better than staying at that house. She is found by Brenda, a middle aged prostitute, who takes her in. Chanie thinks she’s finally found a few people who might actually care about her. Brenda gives her a place to stay and food, introduces her to a few people including Blue – a man in his early 40s who says he won’t let anyone hurt her again, etc. But very quickly after she gets to Brenda’s, she is groomed and forced into prostitution. With nowhere to go and the thought that Brenda and Blue really care about her, Chanie lives this life without too much thought until she’s 18 and gets in trouble with the law. She is given a choice. She can either go to jail or enroll in the Begin Again program – a high school program for troubled youth.
Chanie chooses the high school program and spends the next year torn in different directions. She enjoys school, learning, and that her mentors and teacher really think she is intelligent and can go to college. She also makes friends who become her best friends and like family. But, she still has to live with Blue and Brenda is constantly breathing down her neck. They know the program rules say she can’t drink, do drugs, or do anything illegal. However, Brenda and Blue care more about the money Chanie can make them at night on the streets than her well being or education. Feeling like she can’t let down Blue who “loves” her and also not wanting to get beat if she doesn’t obey, Chanie lives a very stressful dual life, but this can only last for so long. Eventually, she won’t be able to take it anymore. The question is does she give in to her tragic life and abandon the idea of a better future or does she take a stand against Blue and Brenda even if it may cost her her life?
I was hooked on this story from the beginning. Although I can’t personally relate to what Chanie goes through, the author made it easy to connect with her and I felt for her the whole time. I felt like I could feel everything she was going through – her fear, her anxiety, her feeling like she could never make a better life for herself because she was too far gone. I loved her found family – her best friends she made in the program: Ginger, Tuffy, and Jeremy. They all had troubled and traumatic pasts too so it was really heartwarming to see the four of them band together because they really could understand what each was going through.
I think Chanie’s story is really realistic, especially with the vicious cycle that she had to go through. She didn’t want to be a hooker anymore, but she needed money to survive and also those she thought cared for her were taking advantage of her. She was manipulated so much that she felt she owed them and that they were doing what was best for her.
Some parts were definitely detailed and a little graphic, so check trigger warnings, but I didn’t think anything was gratuitous or added in for no reason. I think all the graphic parts were essential to really understand how bad things were for Chanie and how abused she was. All in all, I thought the book was so good and well worth the read.
*I was sent this book complimentary, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.*