Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Pub Date: 07/04/2011
Lost Voices is an enjoyable, interesting and unusual book. Essentially, it is about moral dilemmas and power plays in a group of teenage girls who are mermaids. The concept of abused girls turning into mermaids at their most horrific moment makes a fascinating basis for the story.
Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of her grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead 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. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce’s own remarkable singing talent makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However, her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?
The first book in a trilogy, 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.
One of the things I liked about this book was that the story was never predictable and didn’t rely on endless life threatening situations for its drama as some fantasy books do. The ongoing dramatic tension here came from the relationships between the girls and the challenges that come with being a mermaid. This more subtle kind of story line requires a greater depth in the writing than action based books do, and Sarah Porter does it brilliantly.
Luce has to deal with being the new girl in the group, a fickle ‘best’ friend, an unstable status, and a bully who gains more negative sway over the other girls as time goes on. Add to this her moral dilemma in taking a role in the mermaids ‘activities’ and you have a story that is hard to put down.
The characters were all finely drawn, totally believable and easy to relate to. We could find similar characters and relationship tussles in almost any group of teenage girls, and the interactions between the different characters could have happened in a schoolyard as easily as it did in the ocean. This is what, despite their glittering tails, makes it so real and relevant to teenage girls.
The descriptions of the mermaids’ singing, the power of the song and Luce’s perception of her world as song are beautiful, unique and refreshing.
I found the ending completely satisfying, even though Porter left it open enough to lead into a sequel.
I give it 4 stars and recommend it for anyone who likes relationship based stories with a strong fantastical element.