Review of Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

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Release date: September 13, 2016

Publisher: Candlewick

Genre: YA

Goodreads blurb: 

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.

It’s scheduled for fall 2016; Molly Jaffa at Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management brokered the deal. 


Otis, Meg and Dara make up this absolutely lovely cast of characters in Garner’s touching debut novel. A story of loss, grief and life, there is something magical about this book.

Otis. Sigh. What an absolutely charming young man. Garner beautifully captured the voice of a sixteen year old boy. He is wry, conflicted, painfully hurt, sensitive, very in tune with his emotions, yet he possesses a quiet strength. His brother Mason died in a tragic accident three years ago and nothing has been the same since. He lost his best friend Meg, right at the time the two thirteen year olds began to fall in love. His parents are irreparably damaged and just so broken. All he has left is Dara, his swimming coach with issues of her own.

Dara lost part of her arm in a horrible accident, thus ending her hopes of being an Olympic swimmer. She’s angry, sarcastic, smart, flawed, brutally honest but above all she is real. Her friendship with Otis is one of the most poignant and gorgeous relationships I’ve ever witnessed. They just get each other in a way that no one else does. It truly touched me deep within my heart.

Meg was Otis’ best friend and for a short while, his first love. Her and her family moved away after Mason died and the two never spoke again. But now, she’s coming back. What does this mean for Otis and Meg? How does Dara fit into all of this?

This book deals with some heavy issues; figuring out how to deal with ones sexuality, death, divorce, and mainly, how to move on after such a devastating loss without forgetting about the past. Is it possible to move on and still have hope for the future?

Even though the issues are heavy, Garner has a beautiful writing style. She truly captures all the feelings teenagers have; confusion, an overwhelming surge of hormones and new feelings, frustration, emotional upheaval. Her dialogue reads true and sounds like teenagers talking to each other, there is nothing false or stilted about it.

I literally cannot say enough good things about this captivating book and about Garner as an author. I cannot wait to see more from her and I predict that this book will be huge. I know that I will hold these precious characters in my own heart for a very long time. So go, pre order your copy now.

Overall rating: 5/5

Huge thanks to Candlewick Press and the Reading Room for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

14 thoughts on “Review of Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

  1. Bound to Be Me says:

    Wow, what an amazing review!! I don’t think I could handle this book. Sad books/movies just kill me. I know there is probably a happy ending but still, I can’t do it. But I loved your review. You gave details about the characters and what they were going through without giving away the book. Loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

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