Sunday, July 24, 2011
Dark and Murderous Mermaids
After reading Tera Lynn Childs' mermaid series, I was expecting this to be a light, fun story about cute mermaids. Couldn't have been more wrong! Don't be fooled by the beautiful cover on this book. It is dark and sometimes disturbing. This is not a mermaid story for the sensitive readers out there. Sarah Porter took her mermaids to a whole new level in Lost Voices.
Luce is only fourteen, but she has had a tough life for a girl so young. Her mom died when she was little and her father was a nomad and a thief, dragging Luce from ratty motel to ratty motel, barely letting her stay long enough to enroll in school. She didn't mind it, though. Then her father decides to move to Alaska so Luce can have a normal life and be closer to his brother. When Luce's dad's boat is lost at sea while fishing, she is left to her uncle's protection. Her uncle is a mean, abusive alcoholic, but when he goes to far and actually tries to rape her, something happens to Luce. She changes. She becomes a mermaid.
Mermaids are young women who are given a second chance after being hurt and tortured by human beings. Every girl mermaid Luce meets has her own horror story of how she got there- burned alive, thrown from a moving vehicle, sold by her parents, etc. Most of the mermaids are between 5 and 16, but there are baby mermaids- babies hurt by humans who become mermaids and are stuck as babies, never growing old, unable to defend themselves. The other mermaids call them larvae and know there is no way to help them. They will never grow up and can therefore never survive in the cruel ocean. Most of them are eaten by orcas, but there are always more to replace them. The larvae are the hardest thing for Luce to accept... until she learns what the purpose of the mermaids.
Mermaids sink ships. Their song is so beautiful it draws ships into the rocks and breaks them apart. People ob board are so enchanted, they leap into the water to be closer to the the mermaids, jumping to their deaths. Luce struggles with this, even though she is the second best singer and instantly propelled to Catarina's, the Queen of the tribe, second in command. As a large group of mermaids come and then one of the mermaids convince Catarina to turn a girl on a yacht, things begin to change. Catarina loses her authority to control the mermaids and only take down small ships in places where the humans won't become suspicious. Soon Anais, the girl from the yacht, is getting girls to take down boats to get jewelry and clothes and useless electronics. They are endangering the mermaid way of life, but can Luce and Catarina save the tribe before they call too much attention to themselves?
This is an incredibly dark, and sometimes morbid (especially with the ever-present larvae) story. It is not for delicate readers who can't handle dark stories. The most interesting aspect of this story for me was the fact that, although vengeful, the mermaids were given a second chance at life. For Luce, it was the first time she had real friends and the first time since her father's death she felt loved. It is a beautiful idea that after so much pain, they could find peace somewhere. I also like the idea that while the other mermaids took down ships to get vengeance on evil humans, Luce couldn't bring herself to do it- she remembered that while some humans like her uncle were evil, others were good to her. It is a nice twist to the story that gives hope for people and mermaids alike.
Because this story is full of some very serious and violent situations, it might be best left for an older student. I would recommend grades 10-12 unless you know a younger student who is comfortable with darker material. The book might be best used in conjunction with non-fiction material and discussions about the situations in the story that lead to the girls changing into mermaids. The book will be a great catalyst for some serious discussions on vengeance and violence.