Lost Voices

Lost VoicesBy Sarah Porter

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: July 4, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Netgalley

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 a 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 possesses an extraordinary singing talent, which 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.

Goodreads Summary

Just after settling into a home in Alaska after abandoning their vagabond, grifting lifestyle, Luce is left orphaned when her father is presumed dead after the fishing boat he was on shipwrecked. Now in the custody of her abusive uncle she’s friendless except for a mentally disabled boy who drags her out into storm one afternoon. Luce and the boy discover a strange looking girl washed up dead on the beach but she shows no sign of having been drowned. When her uncle finds out she’s been somewhere other than school or home he snaps and in a drunken rage, tries to sexually assault her. In shock, lost without her father and having no hope left, Luce steps off the cliffs and into the ocean.

Luce doesn’t drown though. As she sinks she hears music calling to her and she’s singing back. Out of nowhere, a ship appears above her and she has to dodge both the bottom and then the bodies falling into the water. The singing gets louder and a sense of peace seems to descend on the passengers as they slowly die. Just as Luce is about to run out of air she’s dragged to the surface then into a partially submerged cave – shockingly full of mermaids that surrounded her earlier.

Certain girls who have been the victims of great trauma and choose to enter the sea can become mermaids Luce learns. Their songs are used to lure boats and ships to wreck on the crags of the Alaskan shores and drown their passengers. The stronger the song and singer, the larger the ship is that can be manipulated. The best singer in their mermaid tribe is their volatile queen Catarina who takes Luce under her wing.

The longer Luce spends with the mermaids, the more she realizes she doesn’t belong with them. They take malicious pleasure in sinking ships and when it’s apparent that Luce’s singing is as good if not better than Catarina’s, unrest divides the tribe. When a ruthless and ambitious newly-turned mermaid joins the group, Luce finds herself on the outside of the new clique – a dangerous place to be.

From the blurb, I wasn’t expecting the story this ended up being. There was a point at which I thought the tension had really reached its climax and the story would play out from there but the story took an outrageous turn and almost became a joke. Plot threads got dropped, characters started acting crazy and things that happened off the page before the story started were being brought up that didn’t really need to be.

Luce is a really likeable character. She’s had a rotten life if you look at it from the outside but she loved her father and is still grieving for him. She doesn’t hate everyone unlike the other mermaids so her conscience bothers her when they bring down ships. She spends time alone practicing her singing so she can find ways to ease suffering or find other ways to use her voice for something more than killing. Even when it becomes clear that she can take Catarina’s place as queen, she won’t do it – she’s her friend, she won’t undermine her place in the tribe. She’s the one character who means what she says and isn’t trying to manipulate someone.

My problem was really with the other mermaids once Anais joined them. The story had been fine before that – the tension between Luce and Catarina was already there, the tribe was having some trouble and Luce was feeling distanced from them. It would have been enough to work from. When Anais showed up, this went from a fantasy novel to some sort of story about high school cliques and mean girls. There were actually mermaids raiding ships for bikini tops, hair accessories and Manolo Blahnik shoes. They gossiped, snubbed Luce, started rumors, spied on her and insulted her. The sudden arrival of a large group of new mermaids from a group home only made things worse when they fell under Anais’ leadership. The entire last third of the book I was just wondering why, why?

My Summary: I really would have liked to have seen more focus on the fantasy in the story. There was a nice amount written about Luce’s singing, but I wanted more about the potential mermen. It was spoken about a great deal, but then something happened with Luce that seemed important and it wasn’t followed up on. Rather than the filler about bikini tops, expensive shoes and high school-type cliques, I wanted the fantasy. The way this ended made me think the next book will be different. Luce knows more about herself and her world and if she can avoid another tribe of mean girls, the series will still be worth a shot.

My Rating: C+




  1. I think that is an interesting concept behind the creation of mermaids–definitely not one I have heard before. I am sorry to hear that the storyline kind-of got dropped. Are you going to read the second book in the series? I may wait until then to decide to read them.

  2. I'm really thinking about it. I liked the way Porter was going and the tension was building in a good way. I thought it went completely overboard when the newly-made mermaid joined. The entire tribe dynamic changed immediately and it was totally unnatural, especially considering the way the mermaids were made and the way she was (it's sort of spoilery).I kind of do want to try the next book. I liked the way this ended, oddly enough. Luce was a good character and even Catarina was interesting. I'd like to see more of them in a different setting without the mean girls.

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