Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on July 4 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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?
I love mermaids. I’ve been a mermaid fanatic since the age of four, and it hasn’t let up since. My fascination with mermaids is why it is so frustrating that every mermaid YA book I’ve read, with the exception of Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz, has been incredibly underwhelming.
Unfortunately, Lost Voices is not an exceptional case. It was beautifully written and I loved the premise, but the execution left a lot to be desired. I never felt any kind of connection to Luce, in fact I found her to be quite the Mary Sue and a bit of a wet blanket. She didn’t really do anything except whine. She stood up to Anais a few times late in the book, though with nothing more powerful than the occasional biting comment. All of the other mermaids were severely underdeveloped, especially considering the potential they all had! The room for character development with all of these girls is so spectacular, yet none of them have actual personalities. They were all abused, yet that major aspect of their human lives is rarely made mention of, nor do there seem to be any lasting emotional repercussions. The only mermaid I even kind of liked was Miriam.
The introduction of the main villain, Anais, cemented my dislike of Lost Voices. Anais is my least favourite kind of villain. She’s spineless and manipulative and materialistic (what do you need high heels for, Anais?? YOU DON’T HAVE FEET!). The scenes between Anais and the larvae (mermaids under the age of 3 or 4 who don’t have the motor control or verbal abilities of the older mermaids) were particularly cringe-inducing. The larvae in general made me very uncomfortable. I just wanted to scoop them up and give them all some much-needed cuddles. I really didn’t understand why the mermaids were so disdainful of them.
Another complaint I had was with the pacing. Nothing really happens between 25% and 70%. It’s literally just Luce swimming and singing for almost half of the book. Then, when a plot does show up it is incredibly asinine. I really just didn’t care about the outcome of the plot, and ended up skimming the last 20% just to finish it. It just didn’t work for me. I wanted to like Lost Voices, but there were so many missing pieces and loose ends and the characters were despicable. I won’t be continuing the series, as I have no desire to find out what happens.