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Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

Phantom Limbs

NewGen - YA Fiction   Debuts of the Month   eBook Favourites   
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June 2017 NewGen Debut of the Month.

In a nutshell: sensitive depiction of loss and survival

Three young people, each marked by terrible loss are at the heart of this powerful YA novel. Otis lost his three year old brother in a tragic accident three years ago. He also lost the girl he loved; Meg was there when Mason died and holds herself to blame. She and her family left town after the accident and Otis has had no contact until suddenly he learns Meg is coming back. A talented swimmer, Otis is coached by a girl just a bit older, who has her own pain to deal with: Dara lost her arm in an accident which ended her hopes of a career as an athlete. Dara is tormented by phantom pains in her missing arm, the agony a vivid reminder for readers of Otis’s loss. Dara’s sharp tongue adds moments of relief to what could otherwise be almost too harrowing a story, and Garner allows all three young people a hopeful ending. ~ Andrea Reece


Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

In this YA contemporary romance, 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 for ever. Since then, it's been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protege 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.


This debut novel is a story of loss, love, and friendship, about a teenager coming to terms with the past and dealing with repressed memories that are resurfacing...Readers will find Otis relatable and endearing in his first-person perspective of first love and heartbreak, as well as his unwavering loyalty to his friends. Meg and Dara round out a cast of well-developed characters who have extensive troubles of their own. Most teenagers will find a little bit of themselves in this well-executed work; a must-have for most YA collections. School Library Journal (starred reviews)

The inability to let go of the past pushes all three white teens beyond their comfort zones into uncharted territory, Garner slowly and steadily guiding readers through these journeys. A heavy read weighted by intense emotions and grief, the novel sifts through tough memories, searching for the silver lining. Kirkus Reviews

Otis's journey - as a competitive swimmer and as a grieving brother-is a poignant one...It's tough-talking, reckless Dara who will intrigue readers. Her struggles with her father, her sexuality, and the dreams deferred because of her accident complement Otis's story, elevating this to a narrative as much about human connection as it is about sports. Booklist

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. Publishers Weekly

The nuanced way that Garner deals with loss is not only beautifully done, but it's thoughtful and insightful. Phantom Limbs is a quietly affecting, well-written gem of a book that will resonate with readers, long after the last page has been reached. A definite YA standout for 2016. Romantic Times Acquisition noted Publishers Lunch Cover reveal feature YA Books Central (blog)

Featured/recommended as part of librarian preview School Library Journal

Dazzling. Brimming with truth and beauty. Jeff Zentner, author of The Serpent King

About the Author

Paula Garner

Paula Garner lives in Chicago with her family and their psychotic cat. Phantom Limbs is her first novel.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st June 2017


Paula Garner

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Walker Books Ltd


384 pages


NewGen - YA Fiction
Debuts of the Month
eBook Favourites

Romance & relationships stories (Children's / Teenage)



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