Genre: YA fantasy (contemporary)
Pages: 304 (hardcover)
To Be Published: July 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Recommended for: fans of both paranormal and edgy contemporary YA
What happens to the girls nobody sees—the ones who are ignored, mistreated, hidden away? The girls nobody hears when they cry for help?
Fourteen-year-old Luce is one of those lost girls. After her father vanishes in a storm at sea, she is stuck in a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village with her alcoholic uncle. When her uncle crosses an unspeakable line, Luce reaches the depths of despair. Abandoned on the cliffs near her home, she expects to die when she tumbles to the icy, churning waves below. Instead, she undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.
A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. The mermaids are beautiful, free, and ageless, and Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: they feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks.
Luce’s own talent at singing captures the attention of the tribe’s queen, the fierce and elegant Catarina, and Luce soon finds herself pressured to join in committing mass murder. Luce’s struggle to retain her inner humanity puts her at odds with her friends; even worse, Catarina seems to regard Luce as a potential rival. But the appearance of a devious new mermaid brings a real threat to Catarina’s leadership and endangers the very existence of the tribe. Can Luce find the courage to challenge the newcomer, even at the risk of becoming rejected and alone once again?
Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.
Lost Voices is one of quite a few mermaid tales turning heads in the YA market now. It seems mermaids are the next big thing after vampires-- though frankly, they're far from my favorite paranormal subgenre. At least this book is a very original take on mermaids-- it's not just a fantasy, it's also an edgy tale about the struggles and even horrors faced by young girls-- horrors which drove our protagonist, Luce, to throw herself off a cliff into the tossing sea.
Luce is fourteen and the orphaned daughter of a pair of nomads. Her mother died shortly after her birth and her father, who was on the run from the law for years, vanishes at sea while working on a fishing ship. This leaves Luce to live with her drunken and often cruel uncle in Alaska by the sea. She's an outcast at school and her only happiness comes from remembering the days when she traveled with her father, who is presumed dead. So when she dives off a cliff into a stormy sea, she fully expects to be free from her sad existence forever. But Luce is reborn as a mermaid-- a girl-siren blessed with immortality and eternal freedom in the sea. She joins a tribe of mermaids, all of whom committed suicide while in the depths of despair. The other girls don't talk about their old lives, having given humanity up in favor of living a peaceful life in their home cave and luring the occasional fishing boat to destruction on the rocks with their siren-like voices. Yet not all of the mermaids are able to cope with their new existence; and even Luce often finds herself challenging Catarina, the beautiful young mermaid who is undisputed queen of their tribe.
I liked one aspect of Sarah Porter's mermaids a lot-- how the mythologies of traditional mermaids and sirens are subtly blended together. What I really couldn't stand was how catty and positively cruel most of the mermaids could be. Catarina in particular was just about bipolar-- one minute Luce was her best friend; the next she's her bitter rival. These mermaids are a capricious lot, to say the least. The story also plodded along quite slowly. As a reader, I can totally enjoy and get into a story where things develop a little slowly. But Lost Voices really pushed my patience. It took me literally three weeks to finish this book-- that's probably some kind of record. I think this is one of those books which some people won't be able to finish and some will really enjoy for its lovely prose and potent mix of gritty reality and unique fantasy. Sarah Porter uses imagery to great effect, and Luce's story is one which will stay with you long after you turn the last page. That said, I don't think I will be checking out the next book in this planned fantasy trilogy.
Plot: 3/5Overall Rating: 3/5