Monday, August 29, 2011

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Series: Lost Voices #1
Published: July 4th, 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 304 (hardcover)
I purchased this book.

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
. --Goodreads


I picked up Lost Voices for two reasons: the first was that I have never read a novel about mermaids, and the second was that plot actually interested me. I mean, a pack of mermaids murdering people at sea? Sounds dark. And the first forty pages of the book were great. Luce seemed like a nice girl and was one that I could sympathize with, even though I’ve never been in her position before. But after she turned into a mermaid, I felt like the novel lost its steam. Not only were action sequences sort of choppy, but Luce became a…dare I say it? A…a…Mary Sue.

As soon as Luce turns into a mermaid and joins her tribe, she becomes close to perfect. She’s good at being a mermaid, even without any training. Her voice is so beautiful that it challenges the skill of her tribe’s leader. The other girls (who sort of blend together as one catty voice) love her and fuss over her and make excuses for her mistakes without even getting to know her­. It was like she could do no wrong.

Now, all these details would be fine and dandy, except that Luce handles them a lot like a pancake; that’s to say, she does a lot of flipping. Honestly, I could never tell if she was happy to be a mermaid or not. In one paragraph, she’s thrilled to have the freedom to swim with baby seals and to have the power to lure boats of people to their death. I found this insanely disturbing because, oh, I dunno, I guess I would have figured that a girl in her position would have more sympathy for an entire boat of people that she accidently murdered. But in the next paragraph (literally), she’d brood over the fact that she becomes excited by the thought of killing people even though she wants to do it again and won’t fight it when the urge comes on. These conflicting emotions prevented me from really getting a lock on who she was after her transformation, at least up until the very end. And even though I understand that some characters need to work out their emotional ambiguity as part of the plot, I just didn’t believe that Luce knew she was conflicted when I was sensing her inner conflict.

Aside from the mixed messages Luce was sending throughout the story, there were elements of the plot that were quite disturbing. The mermaid lore is never really explained, except that young girls turn into mermaids as the result of abuse from other people in their lives. Serious topics when you consider them, except that the ideas are not fully explored in Lost Voices, just skimmed over in casual conversation never to be addressed again. Overall, these topics seemed out of place and sort of inappropriate, especially since the characters didn’t strike me as a group of girls that I should care about since most of them enjoyed their dark power and wanted to abuse it

Would I recommend this book to others? To be honest, no. While the idea has potential, and the writing in certain places is quite poetic, the characters are not fleshed out enough to send a solid message to the reader. Even though a sequel is scheduled to come out next year, I don’t think it’s one that I’ll pick up, unless I hear very, very good things about it.