Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

{July 4, 2011}   Recently Released: Lost Voices, by Sarah Porter

From Goodreads: Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead 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. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce possesses an extraordinary singing talent, which makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt been extremely gracious to allow me to read this novel prior to its release, but I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t drawn into the story.  It was an okay read, but I was never interested in the characters.  I didn’t really like any of the characters for that matter, and likeable, strong characters are a must for me to enjoy a novel.  Luce, the protagonist, has had a difficult life, yet she doesn’t maintain any qualities that make me really feel for her.  I know that sounds terrible, but she wasn’t really fleshed out to the point that I cared about her one way or the other, and as for the other characters, well…  I found them quite despicable.  I do understand the premise for the novel, and I understand that the mermaids became such due to their horrible treatment by some humans, but I struggled with their conclusion that all humans needed to die because of it.  I realize Porter did this to help create a rift between the mermaids and Luce as she struggles with her task of killing humans, as well as to create a social commentary of the state of humanity, but it was hard for me to stomach. 

While I think Porter is a great writer, and the words flow beautifully off the pages, the story itself is just too dark and dreary for me.  There are some aspects of the novel that literally made me ill, such as the larvae—equivalent to babies and toddlers—that have no one to look after them in their mermaid state.  I really dislike giving away spoilers, no matter how small they are, but I do think that potential readers need to know what I’m about to say, even though this spoiler really has little to no effect on the main portion of the novel.  The mermaids have a rule that they don’t help the larvae, or any very young mermaid that can’t care for herself, since it bogs down the older mermaids.  Just reading about this cruelty weighed down on my heart, but then seeing orcas come onto the scene, and the larvae not being strong or fast enough to escape them, well, that made me quite ill, especially the description of the little hand floating by in the red water.  Yes, it was a very quick scene and it makes Luce very upset as well, but I certainly wasn’t ready for so gruesome a depiction, especially to such a young innocent larvae, and I had to put the novel down for a while after that.  In all honesty, I wouldn’t have picked it up again except that I can never leave a book unfinished, so I eventually did go back and complete the novel.

The fact that this novel doesn’t dwell on anything positive was also a huge downer for me.  I can only take so much negative before a positive must ensue, and I didn’t really find that is this novel.  Neither did I find a conclusion, which makes me sad because I really don’t have any plans to continue on with this series, so I’ll never know if anything good ever happens to Luce.  Porter is a very good writer, but this story is just too dark for me.  One and a half stars.


Sue says:

I agree with your review 100%. It was too negative. I don’t expect, nor do I want, a book that is full of sunshine and rainbows (I like dark and edgy). But I need something positive to cling to. The scenes with the Larvae made me sick to my stomach and even reading your review of them (which made me picture the scenes again) made me sick. I’m not usually finicky about things like that so that’s saying something. I understood when buying this book that it was not for the weak of heart but I just could not find anything redeemable in it. The characters were, at best, annoying and I could not bring myself to care what happened to them. The plot seemed to have great promise but just fell flat. It seemed to drag on and I found myself trying to hurry so I could just be done with it. Too many unanswered questions that I will never have answered because I cannot bring myself to read more of

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