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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 prot#65533;g#65533; 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.
Paula Garner lives in Chicago with her family and their psychotic cat. Phantom Limbs is her first novel.
Publisher's Weekly Review
While 16-year-old Otis Mueller's teammate and self-proclaimed swim coach, Dara, wants to see him qualify for the Olympics, Otis is more interested in reconnecting with his first love, Meg, whom he hasn't seen in three years. Meg's parents' separation lands her back in Illinois, the scene of the accidental death of Otis's younger brother, Mason, an incident Meg cannot overcome and Otis's mother cannot forgive. Despite the mutual attraction between Otis and Meg, her PTSD and boyfriend keep the two in friend territory. When Dara-missing a partial limb after a shark attack, suffering from phantom limb pain, and uncertain about her sexuality-begins to act self-destructively, Otis has to decide who is most important to him, Meg or Dara. Garner's debut sensitively portrays Meg and Otis's bruised emotions, both recovering from deep loss. Though the description of Mason's accident is a gut-punch in its realism, much of the plot unfolds predictably. The novel's strongest moments go to Dara, whose no-holds-barred personality-"she was the human equivalent of a Venus flytrap"-livens and complicates the novel. Ages 14-up. Agent: Molly Jaffa, Folio Literary Management. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Horn Book Review
Over three years ago, sixteen-year-old Otis Mueller's first love, Meg Brandt, moved away following the tragic death of Otis's little brother Mason in the Brandts' home. Otis has tried to move on, honing his swimming talents with eighteen-year-old Dara--formerly a swimming phenom herself before the amputation of her arm--as unofficial coach and unpredictable new best friend. But now, after years of silence, Meg is coming back for a few weeks; a summer of awkward reminiscing, unspoken confessions, and romantic tension ensues, all while Otis tries to keep up with swimming, help Dara through her own struggles, and deal with the grief reignited in his family by Meg's return. Even if the will-they/won't-they romantic suspense feels draggy, it's grounded in the believably complicated young love Garner has crafted between Otis and Meg. And while narrator Otis can be sappy at times, his mindful presence--in both everyday teenage life and in larger emotional moments--outdoes the sentimentality. Garner does a fine job cultivating the book's titular theme, with Dara's phantom-limb pain, Otis's grief-filled memories, and Meg's PTSD (she discovered Mason's body) evoking in readers the acute ache of losing something, or someone, vital. As her debut powerfully mines the depths of such loss, it also charts the terrain of healing that follows, leaving readers with hope via Otis's wise insights: "If something is unbearable, then how do you bear it? It's an oxymoron. And yetSomehow I was bearing it." katrina hedeen (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.