Phantom Limbs: 4/5
Author: Paula Garner
Published by: Walker Books YA
“Here’s the truth about healing. It’s a fucking myth—an idea they try to sell you on to keep you from killing yourself. You love someone and they leave, but they never entirely go away. You feel them there, acutely, like an amputated limb.”
This book was sent to me by the publisher. This does not affect my judgement in any way.
Phantom Limbs is an achingly beautiful debut novel by Paula Garner that shows the power of friendship and the pain of loss in the lives of Otis Mueller and the people around him.
In the book, we follow Otis, a 16-year old swimmer who is still trying to cope with everyday life after two irreplaceable losses. After his neighbor, best friend and first love Meg moves away after the death of Otis’ brother, he doesn’t hear from her for over three years.
In this three years’ time, Otis befriends 18-year old Dara, who takes up the task of swimming coach and who trains (or more like drills) Otis to one day end up at the Olympics– partly because she can’t anymore.
But after three years, Meg is suddenly coming back to town, completely throwing Otis off his game (much to Dara’s annoyance). Hoping that everything will be the same as it was before Meg moved away, Otis is in for a sad surprise when he finds out that in fact everything’s changed. Just like Otis, Meg carries dark truths, that both of them will have to face in order to find out what is important to them. As their lives intertwine again, it becomes clear that this is so much more than a love story.
It is not often that a book makes me cry, gives me that “What now?”-feeling once I’ve finished or makes me question everything about life. But Phantom Limbs did it all, in a good way. It talks about heavy topics like love and loss in a way that really makes you think. It tackles these subject with a certain (dark) humour, inevitable truths and a touch of horny 16-year old boy. Combine this with the writing style of Paula Garner and you get a novel with no shortage of absolutely beautiful quotes.
The only reason I didn’t give this book the full five stars is that I somehow couldn’t warm up to Meg. And Otis thinks and talks about Meg like, a lot. Dara was my absolute favourite character, such a strong yet vulnerable character with an intense backstory. Forever rooting for her. Otis was seriously lovable too, even though you’ll sometimes wish you could make him SEE what’s right in front of him. All possible emotions come alive on these pages and the characters make you feel every bit of hurt, anger, grief and regret as if you’re right there with them.
Phantom Limbs is definitely a book that I would recommend to anyone on the lookout for a YA Contemporary to sweep them off their feet. Also if you’re not looking… read it anyways. You won’t be disappointed.
What are some of your favourite ‘meaningful’ Contemporaries?