Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lost Voices Book Review

Author: Sarah Porter. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Harcourt Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780547482507.
Annotation:  Abused and neglected, fourteen-year-old Lucette hopes the sea will swallow her up as she tumbles off a cliff near her Alaskan home. Instead, Luce is transformed into a mermaid and joins a tribe of other young mermaids who were once mistreated just like her.  
Personal thoughts:  I was looking forward to reading this novel and I was not disappointed. When I first read the jacket I was thinking the book would be much lighter fare than it was. There are some very serious and tense issues in the novel, and the whole concept of the “mermaid” is actually very thought provoking beyond the typical “girls with tails” mystique. The characters are well thought and intriguing as well. I look forward to the second installment in the series!  
Plot summary: Fourteen-year-old Lucette “Luce,” lives in a small Alaskan fishing village. Luce’s mother died when she was four and her father disappeared a year earlier when the boat he was working on presumably sank. Luce was left to live with her drunk and abusive uncle who is constantly beating her and making her feel worthless. One afternoon, Luce’s uncle attempts to rape her on the cliffs near their home. When Luce fights him off, he tells her not to come home and abandons her in a raging storm. Luce is bewildered and unsure of what to do, when she suddenly slips off the cliff and into the ocean below. She should be dead, but instead, Luce is transformed into a mermaid. She discovers a tribe of other teen girls who were also abused or neglected in their human lives, causing them to also turn into mermaids. The tribe is lead by Catarina, a beautiful and charismatic mermaid who transformed when she was sixteen. At first, Luce is enchanted by her life as a mermaid: the girls are strong, beautiful and have the ability to hypnotically enchant humans, and each other, with mesmerizing songs. Soon, however, Luce learns how the tribe uses their singing abilities: to sink passing ships in an effort to punish humans for how they were treated in their lives on land. Luce feels a primal urge to participate in the activities of the tribe, but isn’t sure if she can cope with a life dedicated to murdering the innocent. To make matters worse, a new mermaid enters the tribe, one who threatens to destroy the first family Luce has called her own.
Review:  Well-written and utterly unique, this first installment in the Lost Voices trilogy is made even more impressive by the fact that it is author Sarah Porter’s debut novel. Mermaids are an interesting topic for a young adult novel in their own right, but the back-story the author has created for the lives of the mermaid tribe, from how they are created to the rules that govern their lives to their eating habits, take the plot to a more sophisticated level. Certain aspects of the storyline are quite sad: Luce, and the rest of the mermaids, have all suffered inexplicable horrors in their lives on land that caused them to transform. The first several chapters of the novel chronicle Luce’s abuse at the hands of her uncle, and these are some of the most tense in the story. Roughly the first half of the novel focuses more on Luce and her transformation, and this is more poignant and, in many ways, enjoyable than the second half of the book. Porter introduces other characters into the novel, including an annoying and shallow mermaid who threatens the entire tribe, creating more melodrama that waters down the emotional response invoked by the first half of the story. This is the first installment in the trilogy, so Porter did have to create some plot points to keep things moving, and hopefully she can return to the more character driven aspects of the story in the next installment. Overall, Lost Voices is an emotionally charged by enjoyable beginning to a very unique series.
Genre: Fantasy
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Fins series by Tera Lynn Childs, Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs, Ripple by Mandy Hubbard.  
Themes:  Mermaids, sexual abuse, physical abuse, friendship, orphans, death, loss, grief, Alaska.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from teenreads.com and Bulletin.  
Series Information: First installment in Lost Voices trilogy.
Discussion questions: 
- Why do you think that Luce became a mermaid? Do you think she deserved to become a mermaid? Why or why not?
- What is the timahk similar to?
-   Do you think what Catarina did with the men she drowned broke the timahk?
- Would you have been able to participate in sinking ships if you were Luce? Why do you think the mermaids got pleasure from killing humans?
- What do you hope to see happen in the next book? Why?

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