Book Rewind · Review: Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner
Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner is today’s pick for our Book Rewind feature. I originally reviewed this book back in 2016, and it is an amazing debut, so if this review seems familiar that could be why.
Book Rewind is a meme where we review a backlist title to distinguish reviewed books that are not a new release. We noticed we tend to review almost all new or newly released books and wanted to have a feature to spotlight some older books that we either just read or are just reviewing because we never got around to it, or possibly didn’t blog back then! This meme will be posted on Thursdays as a ‘Throwback Thursday’ kind of deal.
We totally encourage others to participate in the Book Rewind Review meme! Backlist titles need love too! Feel free to use our banner and be sure to link back to our page and tag us on social media so we can help promote your posts too!
Category: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication: September 27th, 2016; Candlewick Press
How do you move on from an irreplaceable loss? In a poignant debut, a sixteen-year-old boy must learn to swim against an undercurrent of grief—or be swept away by it.
Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.
Phantom Limbs is such a beautiful story. It explores more than romantically love. It explores every facet of love. And it is so brilliantly done that I found myself utterly consumed by the story.
Otis is our narrator. He’s a 16 year-old swimmer who is still stuck on his old best friend, Meg. He, along with his family, is still dealing with the loss of his younger brother, Mason. And when Meg is returning to her hometown for the summer, all the issues from the past are going to come crashing into the new Otis.
First of all, I have to applaud these characters. Every one of them is fantastically fleshed out and real. And the depth with which they’ve been written…amazing. I don’t know how Garner managed this, but there really are no cliche characters. All deal with some issues or stress. And all are fumbling along trying to just live. Even Otis, for how strong and well-managed he seems to be, has some struggles. All stem from his past. I loved him as a voice. He’s partially a typical teenage boy in some ways, but he’s also surprisingly (and believably) mature in others. You cannot help but love him yourself. And Dara…wow. I think she was possibly my favorite character. She was dealing with so many things in her life. It was shocking, really. And how she tried to deal made sense. But it was obvious her struggles were nearing an end. As for Meg, I liked her okay. I loved the glimpses into her past with Otis. I just wasn’t sure that I felt she was enough for Otis. I think they both have to work out the kinks in life and see if they still fit together. But their past shaped their present, so of course it would be almost perfect for them to remain together.
The story was so many things meshed into one. It was very well-written. The past and present were intricately woven. I wanted to know all the things! But there are so many moments which will cause your heart to ache. Everything about the story felt like it had purpose. Some things I wanted to happen didn’t. I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending. I have mixed feelings about the characters there, but I enjoyed that it was more of an open ending. For what we went through, it definitely fit.
While this isn’t an easy read in the sense of material and tone, it’s a quick one. The writing is flawless. I think readers will enjoy the realism and messages in Phantom Limbs. I know I did.