In debut novelist Porter's bleak take on mermaids, first in a trilogy, the creatures are born out of human abuse and neglect. Luce is an unwanted orphan, living with her alcoholic uncle on the Alaska coast. When he tries to rape her, Luce simply gives up and slides away, falling off a cliff. She awakens singing in the ocean, watching strangers drown as a ship sinks. There are other singers nearby, who bully Luce, answer her questions, and welcome her in a way her peers on land never did. A mermaid's life turns out to be even more brutal than the one Luce left, but now the brutality is directed elsewhere—at humankind. Still, Luce's conscience rebels, and she seeks some way to resolve the beauty of a mermaid's song with the horror of a siren's role. Porter's narrative style suits her oceanic theme; the vivid colors and particularities of life are smoothed away to plain clarity. Luce thinks about her world in ways that read much younger than her 14 years, but the simplicity of the style makes the darkness of the story more tolerable. Ages 12–up. (July)
Children's Literature - Judy Crowder
Land vs. sea, real vs. ideal, compassion vs. selfishness are some of the contrasts that eighth-grader Luce (Lucette) must face in Porter's compelling first novel. Luce's world is far from ideal. Her mother is dead. Her father, a con man-grifter but loving parent, is her whole world which is lived in seedy motel rooms and their red van. Things change when they move in with her father's brother in Alaska, but hardly for the better. Luce's dad dies in a fishing accident, leaving her to live with Uncle Peter, a mean drunk who makes increasingly inappropriate moves toward his niece, and Luce can't begin to fit in at her school. One desperate night, she falls over the cliffs into the sea. Does she die? NoLuce is transformed into a mermaid, more capable and beautiful than she was when human. There, in the frigid water, she is befriended by a group of mermaids, especially their queen, beautiful, brittle Catarina. Two discoveries change Luce's life. One, all mermaids were once human and suffered terrible abuse. Two, her remarkable singing voice excels above all others; eventually she can make even the waves obey her. But the mermaids' great joy and purpose are to sing ships to crash and sailors to drown. Horrified, Luce feels pressured to help in the carnage and chaos. Then another mermaid joins the group. Anais, who is self-absorbed, greedy and cruel, manages to ruin everything. Will Luce be able to survive in her new world? Will she face the same fears and problems she encountered on land? Porter should be applauded for a brilliant first novel. Her writing moves right along, drawing the reader in with suspense. The watery world holds new dangers, with bullies as cruel as any earthly middle or high school "popular crowd," making it easy for the reader to identify with Luce's world. Well-recommended! Reviewer: Judy Crowder
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Luce, 14, wants to just disappear. After her swindling father's boat vanishes, she is forced to move in with her abusive, alcoholic uncle in an Alaskan fishing town. One day he attacks her atop a tall cliff. In her desperation to flee, she is sent tumbling down into the ocean below. What surely should have meant death is actually a rebirth, as Luce is magically transformed into a mermaid and taken in by several mermaids residing nearby. Luce, who has never had any real friends, befriends them, learning that the tribe is made up of girls just like her; they have all been abused in some way. After adjusting to her new world, Luce is overwhelmed with the love she feels—until she learns that her friends use their powerful voices to lure passing ships into the rocks, killing everyone onboard. She is appalled but if she doesn't subscribe to their practices and their abhorrence of humans, she may be banished, sent out into the dangerous ocean on her own. When a new mermaid joins the group and grossly shifts the tribe's dynamics, though, Luce's character is truly tested. For the first book in a slated trilogy, Porter does a nice job of painting Luce's emotions and the dynamics within the tribe. The description of how the girls transform is hazy at best and must be overlooked to enjoy the story that takes place under the sea. The book should be enjoyed by those who dream of becoming someone (or something) else.—Lauren Newman, Northern Burlington County Regional Middle School, Columbus, NJ
On her 14th birthday, Luce enters a dark world of mermaids in this foreboding yet ultimately uneventful debut.
After a life of thievery on the road, her single dad tried to give her normalcy by settling down and taking a fishing job in an Alaskan coastal village. Since his boat disappeared a year ago, Luce has been living with her violent, alcoholic uncle. When he tries to rape her, Luce liquefies, reforms as a mermaid and is taken in by a group of cliquish mermaids, who were all mistreated girls as humans. Reminiscent of Kevin Brooks, Porter blends lyrical narration with the ever-present threat of sinister violence. Like The Odyssey's Sirens, these mermaids, led by their queen, Catarina, use their voices to lure ships to destruction and their passengers to death. Equally fascinated and repulsed by the process, Luce, a naturally gifted singer bound by the mermaids' code of honor, tries to think of a way to turn their voices from tools of evil into beauty. Adding to her dilemma are Catarina's insecurities and secret compromises to the mermaid code and the arrival of the once-spoiled and wealthy Anais, who tries to usurp Catarina's power. The real problem is that Luce takes too long to find her own voice and the tension wears thin.
A sudden ending to this slow-paced story will leave readers floundering. (Fantasy. 12 & up)
From the Publisher
"A haunting debut. . . . Porter’s writing is expressive and graceful. . . . . a captivatingly different story."
"A beautifully written and heartbreaking story about a lost soul struggling to forgive the people she loved who wronged her, and ultimately to forgive herself."—Jennifer Echols, author of Going Too Far
"It might be shelved as a fantasy, but Lost Voices is full of gripping, harsh realism. Without resorting to stereotypes or tired high school plots, it deals with the complications of friendship and peer pressure. And at its core, it's nothing more than a really believable, understandable and relatable story about finding one's voice. Its relevance to real life and its references to the real issues that create lost girls --- abuse, neglect, rape, bad parenting and more--make it a one-of-a-kind mermaid story. For that reason, it will appeal to paranormal, fantasy and realism fans alike."--teenreads.com
"This is a dark and compelling take on a world usually depicted as more lighthearted. . . . Porter nonetheless carefully doles out enough possibilities to keep the overall tone hopeful, and given the already numerous perky mermaids, these gritty, wounded souls are a creative and welcome addition to the field."--Bulletin
"The beautifully crafted first book of the Lost Voices trilogy is told in such a rich, despairing aqua tinged tone, it leaves you desperate for more."--Fantasy Book Review
This first installment in a trilogy by debut author Porter tells the story of 14-year-old Luce, who after a horrific event transforms into a mermaid and finds an unusual home with a tribe of other mermaids. This, however, is not the Disney version of a mermaid's tale. It paints a darker picture of these alluring creatures, where young women become sea nymphs after suffering unspeakable tragedies and then lure humans to their death with their haunting voices. Luce discovers that she now has strength, beauty, and an extraordinary voice but, despite her horrible past, dislikes using her newfound talents for harm. Julia Wheelan successfully narrates an entire cast of characters, from the strong Queen Catarina to the self-absorbed Anaise. This audiobook will appeal to older teens and Twilight fans looking for a change from vampires and werewolves.—Theresa Horn, St. Joseph Cty. P.L., South Bend, IN