Review: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

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Book: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Release date: July 4, 2011
Source: ARC received from NetGalley
Series: Lost Voices #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) 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 â?? 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 tribeâ??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.

First impressions: I found the beginning of the book to be interesting, but felt it took too long to get Luce in the water. We know it’s a mermaid story, and I felt some of the opening scenes could have been cut. Luce runs around town showing us how sad and miserable her life is, introducing us to characters who have no real impact on the rest of the story. I got impatient waiting for her to turn into a mermaid.

Lasting impressions: The descriptions of life in the sea were really cool, and I think I could get behind mermaids. They’re strong, fast, beautiful, and deadly – all things which make up the best heroines in my opinion.

Conflicting impressions: Unfortunately, there were too many dull moments to make me gaga for this book. For every swift-moving exciting scene there were three more where the mermaids just hang out on the rocks and talk. I felt the tension was missing in a majority of the scenes.

Overall impressions: Though I struggled with the pacing and tension in this story, Luce’s growth as a person was satisfying to read. She starts off as a young, sheltered teen stuck in a life she doesn’t want, and winds up a strong mermaid who can stand up for herself and others. It’s a powerful message, especially considering the dark circumstances of this mermaid world.

In this book, mermaids turn after horrific circumstances alter the lives of young girls. In Luce’s case, she is attacked and nearly raped by her uncle. Other girls fell victim to human trafficking, car accidents, or abuse. To mete out punishment on the humans who tried to destroy their lives, the girls-turned-mermaids wreck boats and drown the humans they despise.

Luce, however, isn’t so sure she hates humans. She had a happy life with her father before he was lost at sea and she was sent to live with her uncle. The mermaid queen, Caterina, goes after humans with a vengeance, and Luce struggles with how to fit in with her new mermaid clan while disagreeing with her queen.

The relationship with Caterina is a complicated one, and I could never quite tell if we were supposed to trust Caterina or not. She befriends Luce, but also can blow her off without a thought, and young Luce is obviously pained by the hot-and-cold nature of Caterina’s emotions. When a new mermaid (and probable sociopath) comes on the scene and tries to further that friction between the two sometime-friends, the whole mess gets even messier.

Luce is believably naive and insecure as a youngish fourteen, but the more time she spends with erratic Caterina and the devilish newcomer, the more she realizes that she must rely on her own inner strength and leadership capabilities if she hopes to save herself and her friends. This transformation is a beautiful thing to watch happen, even if I took issue with some of Luce’s choices along the way.

Luce’s story is not necessarily a happy one. She didn’t ask to become a mermaid and is often surrounded by sycophantic and insecure girls caught up in bloodlust against the people they feel have wronged them. It’s a dark tale about the damage done by hardship in one’s life, and how the choices we make in trying to overcome our pasts can have a huge impact on our enjoyment of our futures. I recommend this one for die-hard mermaid fans, but I think the average reader will find the overall story a bit boring.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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Interested in other mermaid tales? Click to read my review of Siren’s Storm by Lisa Papademetriou.

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Review: Siren’s Storm by Lisa Papademetriou

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Book: Siren’s Storm
Author: Lisa Papademetriou
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release date: July 12, 2011
Source: ARC received from Book It Forward ARC Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) Nothing has been the same for Will ever since what happened last summer. One day, on an ordinary sailing trip with his brother, there is a strange accident. When Will wakes up, he learns his brother has disappeared, presumed drowned. Worst of all, Will can’t remember what happened â?? his family finds him unconscious, with no memory of the accident.

Now Will and his best friend and neighbor, Gretchen, are starting a new summer. Gretchen seems troubled â?? her sleepwalking habit is getting worse, and she keeps waking up closer and closer to the water. Will is drawn to Asia, the exotic new girl in town. Nobody knows where she’s from â?? all Will knows is that her beauty and her mesmerizing voice have a powerful effect on people.

Then there is another mysterious drowning, and Will and Gretchen begin to wonder: Is Asia just another beautiful, wealthy summer resident? Or is she something entirely more sinister . . . and inhuman?

First impressions: I loved the setting – a ritzy summer home beach community on Long Island – and eased into this one with summer in mind. This would make a great beach read.

Lasting impressions: Not as memorable or exciting as I hoped it would be.

Conflicting impressions: There was a big info dump at the end that would have been easier to follow if we’d gotten glimpses of it as we went.

Overall impressions: Will and Gretchen live in a summer destination spot for rich Manhattanites. Will is a year-round resident whose dad operates a small produce farm and Gretchen is the daughter of a rock musician who lives next door during the summers. I was really expecting some kind of tension from the local-vs.-outsider setup, but instead they are best friends, and Gretchen is given a pass for being one of the non-locals. Their relationship seemed very bland to me, despite their long and complicated history.

Both are suffering somewhat. Last year, Will’s brother was killed in an accident Will can’t remember. Gretchen is sleepwalking, which has escalated quite dangerously. When exotic newcomer Asia arrives in town, she ends up sort of befriending both Will and Gretchen. Asia is standoffish, mysterious, and oddly powerful. Will and Gretchen both observe her doing strange things, and neither of them can quite figure her out.

It was at this point that I got a bit impatient with this book. It’s a quick read, but parts of it really dragged because we know Asia has something to do with the strange events happening in town, and even suspect she has something to do with Gretchen’s sleepwalking and Will’s grief, but we don’t get any kind of confirmation or resolution until the end of the book. I think that some of the hints may have been too obvious or that the action was too sparse. It just didn’t build quite right for me.

I really enjoyed the characters, however, and the interesting take on sirens/mermaids. I found Asia to be incredibly cool once we finally got to know her. Adding her perspective to the narrative would have helped me understand more about her, and I don’t think it would have taken anything away.

I also liked the ending, which ties together all of the events going on in the three characters’ lives. There is a neat fight scene with some surprising effects, and overall I thought the tale was pretty enjoyable. I recommend this if you’re looking for a quick mermaid tale to read under a lazy summer sky.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system