Lost voices by Sarah Porter

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: eGalley (Courtesy of NetGalley)
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: July 4th, 2011

What happens to the girls nobody sees—the ones who are ignored, mistreated, hidden away? The girls nobody hears when they cry for help?
Fourteen-year-old Luce is one of those lost girls. After her father vanishes in a storm at sea, she is stuck in a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village with her alcoholic uncle. When her uncle crosses an unspeakable line, Luce reaches the depths of despair. Abandoned on the cliffs near her home, she expects to die when she tumbles to the icy, churning waves below. Instead, she undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid. 

A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. The mermaids are beautiful, free, and ageless, and Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: they feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. 

Luce’s own talent at singing captures the attention of the tribe’s queen, the fierce and elegant Catarina, and Luce soon finds herself pressured to join in committing mass murder. Luce’s struggle to retain her inner humanity puts her at odds with her friends; even worse, Catarina seems to regard Luce as a potential rival. But the appearance of a devious new mermaid brings a real threat to Catarina’s leadership and endangers the very existence of the tribe. Can Luce find the courage to challenge the newcomer, even at the risk of becoming rejected and alone once again? 

My Thoughts
I still don’t understand how Sarah Porter was able to keep me reading, despite being appalled at how excited the girls were at the prospect of helping people—especially men—drown. And there’s a lot of that happening in this book. Don’t call me prude just yet. I did, in fact, come to understand the feeling of need behind it, and the reasons these girls could be so drawn to sinking ships. Porter was able to create a group of girls whose personalities and interactions were exactly what one would expect from girls who have experienced such horrible things in their lives. I kept reading, hating what they were saying, doing, and how they interacted with each other, yet understanding that it was exactly how they should have behaved.  

The main character, Luce, reminded me a lot of the ocean—no pun intended. There always seemed to be this battle raging inside her, as calm as the sea at sunrise, and then as terrible as the deadliest storm. She fights between giving in to the tragically beautiful sensation of her siren’s call, and her horror at the thought of killing innocent people. She also has to worry about her place among the other mermaids in her tribe, and each of their reactions to her as she gets pulled deeper and deeper into her internal struggles.

One of those mermaids is Catarina, the tribe’s Queen.  I wasn’t too sure about her at first. Her character comes across as volatile, vengeful, and has a lot of ups and downs. She is quick to anger, and then quick to forgive, although she obviously does not trust anyone. It wasn’t until halfway through the book that I started to “get” her. Her present demeanor is a direct consequence of events from her past. Although she tries to be strong and fierce for her tribe, she is really just a girl mourning her past, and learning how to trust. Surprisingly, she ended up being my favorite character.

I very much enjoyed the sections about Luce’s singing, and even the sections about Catarina’s singing. Porter wrote such wonderful description that I, myself, felt lured by the beautiful and tragic words on each page. The singing was rich in detail and I was captivated.

What I didn’t like, however, was that Luce’s character didn’t stand up for herself very much, and it got frustrating at times. I wished each time a rude word was spoken to her, that she would say something instead of retreating back into her mind and her singing. I guess I really just wanted to see some sort of powerful mermaid argument, but Porter wasn’t having that. Not when most of Luce’s strength is in her ability to think through things.

I was very surprised by the ending, which seemed to come out of nowhere. I ended up re-reading the ending a few times to try and make more sense of it. Although it ended on a word of hope, I feel like it could have benefited with even a few more lines of description to make it a more definite ending. 

After reading, I had the feeling that I, as the reader, had been sung to by Porter’s words. At times the song was grim and scary, and at other times it only hinted of a danger close by. I was immersed in this story, and given a dark, gripping tale.

Read this if
...you want a quick and unique tale that takes you close to the dark side, and lets you teeter on the edge a little.

Content Warnings
*This section may contain some spoilers about content!* 
Highlight between the brackets to reveal the text.
{This book refers many times to issues such as abuse, neglect, and incest. It also talks about death and murder, the longing to drown passengers of ships. There is also some disturbing mistreatment of baby mermaids--larvae--including a descriptive scene where they are eaten by Orcas (the reason I couldn't give the book four stars).}


  1. Love your review. Very detailed. I can't wait to read my copy ;)

  2. Thank you! It was a very interesting book, and I'm glad I had the chance to read it. I would love to know what you think of it when you finish reading!

  3. Interesting. I'm a mermaid freak so I must see what you mean :)

  4. Let me know what you think of it if you read it. I'd love to hear the opinion of someone who loves mermaids.


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