04 February 2011

Book Review: Lost Voices

Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher/Year: Houghton Mifflin / 2011
Date Finished: 3 February 2011
Source/Format: NetGalley / eBook

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: TwentyEleven Challenge,

The Short and Sweet of It
In this lyrical and haunting tale, Porter explores a world in which girls, cruelly abused in life, transform into mermaids and find themselves wielding a great power over humankind.

A Bit of a Ramble
I have to admit that I was wary of a book about mermaids. While I would jump at the chance to read a mature book about these fascinating mythical creatures, I worried that a young adult novel centered on mermaids would be too Little Mermaid and not enough Sirens. Man oh lordy was I wrong.

The story is haunting and painful and atmospheric, like a strange cross between the pain of Emma Donaghue's Room or Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl and your typical paranormal YAL. The main group of characters are all abused girls whose lives were so tortured they morphed into mermaids as escape. Now they live together in the sea, seeking revenge against humanity for the hell they were put through. These girls' stories are hard to read. And the heartbreak doesn't stop there. The sea is also inhabited by larvae, girls who changed too young; they are unable to really speak or swim, and the "older" mermaids are disgusted by them, leaving them to their fate instead of taking care of them. There is so much darkness in this story.

But I don't want to give the impression that the darkness is pure sensation without purpose; readers are treated to a story both horrifying and beautiful. Like a traditional fairy tale (instead of the Disney version) the world Porter has created feels infused with shades of gray. Black and white, right and wrong, are secondary to the complexity of personal growth and understanding. These creatures are beautiful and ominous and fantastic and pitiful and loving and dark. As with the Sirens of mythology, these mermaids possess the ability to lure sailors (and vacationers on cruise ships) to their deaths. Their desire for destruction is perfectly comprehensible both as a result of their abuse and as a result of their nature, the song calls to them.
It was overkill, far more enchantment than they needed to drive such a small boat to its doom, but she knew no one cared. They were all caught in the exaltation of their own voices, mad with the joy of power. She felt a rush of compassion for all the girls singing now: after all, they'd spent their human lives being so utterly helpless, how could they fail to be delighted by their ability to dominate anyone who heard them?

The story is also wonderfully lyrical and vivid. The words flow across the page, and the music of the language is complemented by the ocean setting and the songs which comprise such a large part of the mermaid culture. Once I started reading, I felt strangely lulled into the story. For me, this was a great example of Form mirroring Content.

This is the first in a trilogy, and as this book doesn't even come out until this summer, I have a long wait for the next installment. Ah, the joys of series.

Question: What series that is already 100% out should I distract myself with?


  1. You have intrigued me with this review.

  2. You make this sound so good. I am surprised that it's only a borrow. I would be looking to buy!

  3. Wow, I thought this sounded interesting when I first read about it, but now you have me completely sold. Thanks for exploring it.

  4. You could read The Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter for an already done series. :P

  5. Oh wow! This sounds like a fantastic book, though it does sound very dark. I simply must read this one! I am off to see if I can get a copy right now! As for series that are complete, if you are in the mood for something slightly weird, yet atmospheric, I would recommend the Anno Dracula series. There are three books, and they are all very good. They are alternate history with vampires. The first deals with Jack the Ripper.

  6. I've been sort of steering away from YA lately but this one sounds so intriguing!

  7. Sounds great. and great that it's a series, so more to come!

  8. Mystica - You should pick it up!

    Nicole - It didn't get a buy because I never felt like my intellect was challenged. It takes some serious mind bending and entertainment to get to the buy. ;)

    Sally - It's definitely worth the time!

    Care - It has definitely been a while since I read the Chronicles...

    Heather - Thanks for the suggestion; that's one I've never read!

    Jenny - It was really unique for a YA novel.

    Marie - It is nice that the story isn't over yet.

  9. The joys and the agonies! As for a series recommendation, can't go wrong with Ursula Le Guin's Annals of the Eastern Shore. It saddens me that this trilogy isn't nearly as well-known as Earthsea, because I think it's better.

  10. Fantastic review. I'll be looking for this when it is released. Thank you for the recommendation!

  11. I love books with a lyrical writing style. I'll have to add this one to my TBR list. :)

  12. Ana - I am embarrassed to admit it, but I haven't read anything by Le Guin except short stories. Bad me.

    tapestry - No problem. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

    Jessica - It was a really good read.

  13. Glad to hear it lives up to the promise of the cover, which is gorgeous.


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