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Friday, January 21, 2011

Advanced Review: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

Woot - this is the first book I've completed for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge!

I'm going to start with a disclaimer here.  I am not most author's ideal candidate to be reviewing this book.  Here's why -- the cover and the whole mermaid thing threw me off.  Not that the flap copy isn't an accurate description, because it is.  But if you go into this book thinking it's going to have elements of a traditional paranormal (you know... action, adventure, romance) you, like me, will be sorely mistaken.
Reading level: Young Adult

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
  • Release date: July 4, 2011
  • Provided by: the publisher via Netgalley

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?
The first book in a trilogy, Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

See, had I been paying attention, would have appreciated that this was a full-fledged coming of age story set against a paranormal backdrop and NOT a paranormal novel with some coming of age elements.  Yeah, maybe I'm stressing that too much.  But I think it's important for people to get what they expect, otherwise, you wind up disappointed.  And were I a coming of age story reader, I probably would have gone nutso for this book.

The writing in this book is amazing.  It's vivid, descriptive, and a whole bunch of other wonderful adjectives.  Here's an example from page 87: The ocean was stained green and golden, laced with writhing threads of light, and Luce realized it was the first time she'd swum through sunlit water. It's writing like that which makes the rest of us aspiring authors feel unworthy.  Coupled with a completely original coming of age backdrop, this book has a lot going for it.

But, as you've guessed by now, it wasn't really my speed.  This has more to do with personal taste than any fault of the book.  The only substantive thing I would've liked better is for the book to have been written in first person instead of close third.  We as readers come to know Luce so well that when you put the book down and then pick it back up, the third person is jarring.  Maybe I'm just in love with the first person POV right now, but it got to me a couple of times.  (Oh, and the ending?? I kept clicking my Kindle to go to the next page, convinced that it couldn't be over yet. I had to get a little more closure than that, didn't I? But alas, such is the way of the trilogy in today's market.)

That being said, if this is the kind of story you enjoy, you will most likely connect with Luce.  She is instantly likable, she is repeatedly tested and broken, and yet she still struggles to be a better person/mermaid through it all.  There is a subtle, buoying message for the younger teens to whom this book is directed: no matter how cruel the world (even your supposed friends and family) seem to be, there is always a way to make things better. Life is worth living and each of us has something to contribute, even if it is simply our humanity.
Bottom line, I give Lost Voices three Greek coins -- a URA* rating. It's not one that die-hard, action-packed paranormal romance lovers will be fawning over, but it is extraordinarily well written and beautiful.  

To pre-order your copy, visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble.