Review: Lost Voices (Lost Voices, #1) by Sarah Porter

Lost Voices (Lost Voices, #1) by Sarah Porter
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Released: June 13th 2011
Format: Hardcover (291 pages)
Source: My local library
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.
Sarah Porter twists the mermaid and siren lore into something filled with depth and humanity - or should I say, inhumanity?

The mermaids in Lost Voices are vastly different from your usual part-girl, part-fish creatures. Lucette - known as Luce for short - our main character, is one of those 'lost girls' - girls who have been abused, abandoned and mistreated by adults they once trusted and loved. These girls have given up their humanity in their darkest hour, and now dedicate their mermaid lives to drowning seafarers with their beautiful, haunting voices. 

I found the pacing of the story just right. Porter's writing is descriptive without being overwhelming, especially when describing the mermaids' songs. I find this a remarkable feat, for it is much harder to describe sound as compared to visual things. This is how well Porter does it for Luce: 

She could lead her voice through soft, flowing formations as complex and airy as clouds, make it spread like feathers, divide it so that she was singing several interwoven melodies at once...

She spread her voice out in a single deep note as flat as a sheet of paper, then let it start to curl in on itself, wrapping into a slow aching chord at the edges. 

You can't ever tire of the descriptions. Porter's mermaids are otherworldly singers and she manages to bring this across by using remarkably apt phrases. 

There is more focus on morals, humanity (or the lack thereof) and of how Luce assimilates into the already-existing mermaid tribe with its queen, Catarina. While these mermaids claim to care and look out for each other, there are strong parallels to a high school girl clique. There is backstabbing, competition, temporary friendships, trust issues and basically this 'hierarchy' most cliques have. Luce has to work her way through this mess with a discerning mind. The fact that she can sing better than Catarina does not help her popularity in the tribe for the long run.

The watery world Porter creates is extremely interesting and she does a great job conveying Luce's dilemma of being torn between the desire to sing and drown humans, or to stop singing due to that spark of humanity left inside her. Seeing Luce morph into a stronger person mermaid is simply amazing. On the whole, there is less plot as to what the mermaids eventually want to achieve and all that. It's more of Luce's arrival in the tribe and how the entire tribe evolves because of her. The ending leaves us hanging - there's definitely more to come in the sequel, Waking Storms!

Despite Lost Voices being a less plot-driven novel, I'd say it's still totally worth taking the time to read. It gives great insight as to how cliques work and discusses humanity through Luce's character. Are mermaids that different from humans? Or are they really just as vicious? This story will strike a chord with anyone who reads it.

For a debut novel, Porter has managed to interweave her words and siren lore very skilfully into a haunting tale of what it truly means to be human... Four starfish!

Sarah  PorterI'm a writer, artist, and freelance teacher. I teach creative writing workshops in the New York public schools via Teachers and Writers Collaborative; I've worked with kids in grades K-10, but I've focused on junior high and high school for the last several years. I don't think I would have written a YA novel if it weren't for that experience! Reading my students' intense, passionate poetry and stories recalled my own emotions at that age. Lost Voices was my attempt to write the book I most needed as a twelve-year-old struggling with what it means to be human: a book I never really found.

I live in Brooklyn with my wonderful husband Todd, an artist and fabricator of electronic art, and our cats Jub Jub and Delphine. I have an M.F.A. from City College.

Visit Sarah at her website!

Get your copy of Lost Voices!
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  1. Hey, Sherlyn! I saw your tweet for your blog your stop for Dangerous Depths being retweeted by Karen and saw your surname and was like, holy mama another Singaporean blogger!! Haha, it's soooo cool to meet another Singaporean blogger!! I encouraged my sec school classmate to create a book blog as well but our genres are quite different (hers is more adult historical romance and I'm more PNR/UF, adult or YA is fine. Actually I read anything with romance, fantasy, thriller, erotica, just not contemporary). Yeah, just wanted to say hi!

    But I did read your review! Haha, I LOVE mermaids too (though Ariel is my favorite Disney Princess ;) and their stories, but they've been mostly hit and misses for me so far. It's the same with dragons too. I saw many bloggers being all hyped up about Lost Voices a few years ago when it released but by then I was so wary bout mermaid novels already I gave it a pass. But I'm so glad you enjoyed it so much! Her descriptions does sound amazing, but I'm not sure bout the "backstabbing" part, haha, sounds too close to a YA contemp for me. *shudders*

    Anyway, nice to meet you!

    P.S. It's not fair how expensive books are here in Singapore. Sighhhhh, especially since all those indie books or books published by smaller publishers aren't sold in stores here.

    1. Hi there, Yet Peng! Would you like me to call you that, or CYP? I just stopped by your blog and left a comment (: Seems like we have Karen to thank for bringing us together! It's lovely to meet another Singaporean book blogger, and I think it's awesome of you to get your friend started on her own book blog! Nothing better than spreading book love, yes?

      Yay, another mer-lover! I love most of the Disney princesses and that's why it's so hard for me to pick a favourite Disney princess. But yes, The Little Mermaid is amazing even on its own. I can never tire of watching Disney movies over and over again. YA mermaid books are always on my radar whenever I go to anywhere with books in it, and I'm more likely to give them a chance as compared to other YA novels. I love seeing different takes on the classic mermaid/siren folklore.

      I'd say Porter intended for Lost Voices to be more relevant to girls, rather than merely building a fantasy world of watery depths. It targets issues close to the heart, such as girls being neglected or being bullied by cliques at school. It's a fish-eat-fish world out there, and this is literally reflected in the Lost Voices trilogy. It's a mermaid story with a darker twist and many other underlying meanings to it, for which I love very much. I've never read a mermaid novel trilogy like this one which hits so close to home.

      It's great to connect with you here, and I hope we'll be able to stay in touch!

      P.S. I know, right? I cringe so hard at that. If libraries didn't exist, I'd have spent all my money on books already. *grins* Singapore really, really needs more exposure to indie authors and publishers!


    2. Hey! Sorry for this supersupersupersupersuper late reply, haha been so busy after A's!

      Anything's fine, I guess! Haha, I used to love seeing the different versions of those folklores, but after a while they just blend together. And I'm not sure why, but YA mermaid novels tend to read more like contemporary high school romances which is. Not. Cool. Haha, to me at least! Too...mundane and boring. I prefer my books to have more action, more intense passion and such.

      Yeahh, see high school! Haha, but yes, a book with twists and more layers is definitely interesting to read. Glad you loved it so much! I've been in a reading funk lately, so everything's just not appealing or engrossing. *sobs*

      Great to connect with you too! Maybe we could meet up some time and start our very own YA book club! The book clubs in Singapore mostly focus on classics, mysteries without romance. Ugh, boooring. Haha, not that classics is boring, I just don't like to read tragedies.


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