Title: Lost Voices
Series: Lost Voices, #1
Author: Sarah Porter
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: July 4th, 2011
Length: 291 pages | 9 hours 4 minutes
Source: Borrowed from my local library
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?
This book was imaginative in concept (either abused, neglected girls become mermaids when they die/disappear, or Luce is having a massive fever dream about that). But to be honest, it was all over the map. I loved the concept of the larvae, and the descriptive approach to the singing, and the fact that these are sirens- luring humans to be drowned, out of a hatred of the species. But everything else was so scattered, I had a hard time getting a bead on it.
Is this a book about friendship dynamics? We’re meant to see that illustrated with Luce and Catarina, who don’t have a friendship. They don’t- Catarina saves Luce, Luce admires Catarina (which may or may not be some enchantment Catarina wields), but they never share anything like friendship. And since absolutely none of the other girls are at all developed as characters, I feel like there’s no point here.
Is this a book about the toxicity of wanting physical objects all the time? The foil character embodies that to an unrealistic point. And of course, the underdeveloped characters blindly follow her insanity, which felt like maybe it was supposed to be a comment on herd mentality in the modern age, but it came across as “author needs someone really horrible in order to make protagonist look good by comparison”.
Is this a book about turning something inherently destructive into something good? Luce is a serial killer. But she tries not to be. I was hoping for some more tension around that, her human nature vs her mermaid nature. But just when the author starts really exploring it….she drops the entire thing in favor of the new mermaid foil character.
Is this book a romance? There’s about five pages’ worth of swoony romantic setup, and then it’s completely dropped. Luce has one moment of pining, but otherwise it’s as if the entire subplot never existed.
At the core, my biggest problem with the wishy-washy nature of this story is the character of Luce, strong enough to survive living in a van with her crooked father, strong enough to survive being an outcast in the middle of nowhere Alaska, strong enough to survive (and hide) her uncle’s regular beatings….but being briefly almost molested by her uncle drives her to death/mermaidhood. OK, fine, everyone has their borders- but then she goes from having one true friend to totally forgetting about that friend, to declaring one emotionally manipulative girl her closest friend and being heartsick over “losing her”, to deciding a dead stranger is her friend. Is Luce insane? Maybe.
I really wish Sarah Porter had cut out everything involving the psycho rich girl foil character, and focused on Luce’s internal struggles, being among the people who killed her father, trying to hide her ‘chosen one’ powers, struggling to connect to others when they’re all highly damaged, etc. That was the story I wanted to read.