Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publication Date: July 4, 2011
ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley
This book isn't on my official Debut Author Challenge list, but I couldn't resist that cover. I mean, come on. It's gorgeous. Evocative. I had to read it.
Lost Voices is no princess mermaid book. If a reader who loves the Emily Windsnap books is looking for a read-alike, this isn't it. Lost Voices has dark, edgy mermaids who are more Siren than Little Mermaid.
The story centers on Luce, a 14-year-old girl who lives with her alcoholic uncle in a small Alaskan fishing village. Her mother died when she was young, but her father has just recently died in a shipwreck. Life with her uncle turns from horrible to horrific after one of his drunken rampages goes too far. Luce escapes him, only to inexplicably find that she has turned into a mermaid. She befriends a tribe of mermaids and learns that girls who were abused and neglected become mermaids with the power to enchant humans through song. Enchant them into crashing their ships into the rocks and throwing themselves into the ocean. Because humans, who have caused so much pain and suffering, deserve to die.
Luce discovers that she is a powerful singer, perhaps the best in the tribe, but she doesn't want to kill humans. She wants to find other songs, other enchantments, that won't leave other girls orphaned.
I won't go any further into the plot than that and avoid spoilerland. But it's a great premise, totally worthy of the promise of the book cover. Sarah Porter does a phenomenal job of world building, from the Alaskan fishing village to the depths undersea. She's a lyrical writer, which is important if you're going to write about songs that a reader has to imagine.
I do have a couple of quibbles with the book. After a very strong chapter where a group of girls are introduced, showing their transition from human to mermaid, these characters fade into the background. The book also just sort of ends, in a way that I didn't find completely satisfying. But I didn't know then that this is the first of a series. Hopefully in subsequent books the other characters will be more fully developed and the whole story arc will be stronger.
As a librarian, I would buy this book. I would recommend it to readers who like darker stories, such as The Giver or Bridge to Terabithia. If I were a 14 year-old-girl, I'd be waiting impatiently for the next book to come out.