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Phantom Limbs

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,001 ratings  ·  391 reviews
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
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Candlewick
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Jesse (JesseTheReader)
I loved the way this book tackled grief! Even though I wish certain things would've been revealed early on and wouldn't have been used as a shock factor plot point. I also had some issues with a few of the characters, mostly the main character Otis. Homeboy drove me crazy over the fact that he felt he deserved Meg just because they have history. His obsessive nature with her was a bit concerning. Something that I really enjoyed was the complexity of each relationship showcased. There were so man ...more
Wendy Darling
4.5 stars This story is told from the perspective of a smart, dreamy boy who's buzzing with hormones and focused on his sport, but can't quite let go of his feelings for his childhood sweetheart. It treats love--of all kinds--and loss with exquisite delicacy, but doesn't descend into sentimental wallowing thanks to the wry narrative voice and the realistic relationships. It also poignantly shows how the loss of one small person can create a crater of grief in everyone around him, and how that gr ...more
"You love someone and they leave, but they never entirely go away. You feel them there, acutely, like an amputated limb."
Phantom Limbs is a standalone, YA realistic fiction novel written by Paula Garner. This is her debut novel and it is, in one word, palpable. I could feel the life-changing loss, regret, confusion, loneliness, tentativeness, empathy, love, humor (I could go on) flowing through these characters. I found Ms. Garner's writing to be incredibly realistic and I thought s
Let's be honest here, I didn't listen in elementary school when I was told to never judge a book by its cover. I saw this book on display at the library, noticed the blurb by Jeff Zentner, and I was suddenly a toddler in a toy store yelling, "Gimme" at the top of my lungs. I didn't know a thing about it, but I really didn't care.

I didn't have low expectations for this book, but I didn't have high ones either. So when I finished the last page and was utterly satisfied, I was a bit shocked. I'll
Katie McNelly
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's official: I have a type.

If this were a Missed Connections ad, or some dated dating service, my ad would look something like this:

Woman seeking book. Young Adult contemporary, male point of view. Male must come of age in the story, find himself as himself and not merely an extension of others, and come to understand that life is life, life is pain, life is terrible, but more often than not, life is beautiful, life is awe-inspiring, life is pure and ours and love.

And that's exactly this novel
Aj the Ravenous Reader
A bittersweet (but thankfully the sweet won) story of grief and loss; friendship, and love. I love that’s it’s equally a story of friendship and romance and how the title both literally and figuratively symbolizes Otis’ relationship with the two girls (besides his mom) in his life.

Dara, his friend literally experiences phantom limbs even five years since her arm was amputated and Otis has always been her reprieve, the one who knows exactly how to help her go through imaginary pain. Meg on the ot
An excellent look at the complexities of grief, PHANTOM LIMBS makes a strong YA debut. I've had this on my TBR for over a year & I wish that I had gotten to it sooner. Otis is a wonderful MC (when he wasn't solely focused on pining for Meg for the moment) & I felt Garner did a superb job of exploring how guilt overtook lives in different ways. While I'm only rating this 3*, I would not hesitate to read another book from this author. For someone who reads YA consistently, I'll admit that sometime ...more
Oct 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

3.5 Stars

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner is a powerful read. Grief and pain so intense and real it made me cringe and cry.

Sixteen year old, Otis, is dealing with life the best way he can. His brother, Mason, died 3 years ago and the loss and hole in his life is still so raw. Waves of pain threaten to pull Otis and his parents under almost every day. Waves of missing his brother so much it feels like a physical pain—a hit to the heart and gut. Memories and pain flood in when you least expect them.
**I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.**

Diving right into this review without making a splash: This is a great YA read.

The writing is good, the story has a unique angle to it and the characters are engaging. It has drama by the boatloads submerged in a big fat love story. It is everything my teenage daughter would love. A boy pining for a possibly obtainable lost love, odd friends that need comfort/support just as much as they can provide and a mystery element that keeps
Julie Zantopoulos
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
CW: PTSD, death of a sibling, death of a child, grief, suicide attempt, depression, anxiety, and emotional cheating.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: standalones
From the first few chapters I thought I was going to fall in love with this book. There was intrigue, beautiful writing, and a really interesting cast of characters. It's the story of Otis, whose best friend and next door neighbour, Meg, moved away suddenly after an unforeseen incident. Otis is left devastated and in mourning for his little brother, and the girl he used to love. In the three years Meg is gone, Otis takes up swimming, coached by Dara the Scandinavian swimming goddess who lost an ...more
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm overcome with love for this book. It has struck me right in the heart and is still resonating hours after finishing it.

Beautiful writing in what, feels to me, like an incredibly authentic male POV with a beautiful m/f friendship at its core. This book broke my heart but it also gave me a lot of hope for the future. I feel changed by the quiet power and grace of this story.

I'm a forever fan. I'll be buying a finished copy of this book when it comes out.

[Read and reviewed an advanced copy.]
kazually ♡
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book was really well written and the ending was sweet and satisfying. everything was transitioned pretty well, but there were some parts where i was kinda confused. binge-read this because i was lazy and didn't feel like doing anything else yesterday, and it got kinda boring at some parts, but maybe that was just me?? overall, this book was super good!!

(who else took forever to notice that raindrop heart on the cover?? so cute ahh.)
Oh man, this was so good, but I cried some very real tears, multiple times. The emotions in this book are just so...surface. You just cannot stop feeling the characters feeling so much - guilt and nostalgia and longing and envy and pain - and it's so earned, which make it that much more intense. I love how every relationship in this book is one you're dropped into while it's already in progress, neither too new nor too established and polished, and you're constantly picking up more and more back ...more
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight


I kind of adored this book. See, Otis is a swimmer. So it won me over from the start with Otis and Dara and their swimming shenanigans. To sum it up for you:
"Like an Olympic swimmer, Otis Mueller didn't take days off. Unlike an Olympic swimmer, Otis Mueller would never make it to the Olympics."

Gah, where to even begin? This book was so good and I kind of want to mostly flail. So
Jeff Zentner
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those coming-of-age stories that's the whole reason I read and love YA books. The prose is stunning. The characters are vivid, breathing, and fully formed, and the story will break your heart and reshape it into something stronger. This book left my jaw on the floor. Paula Garner has made me a fan for life.
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
4.5 Stars.
Phantom Limbs is a gentle yet wonderfully written exploration of grief and the imprint left behind by those who touch our lives. Poignant and quietly hopeful, Otis is a character that represents a life once bound by sadness, depicted compassionately and delicately. Simply beautiful.

Otis is a young man wise beyond his years, sensitive and contemplative and I admired his quiet resilience from the very first page. We're first introduced to Otis the athlete, the black line beneath the wate
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great book about loss, love and moving on.
T.J. Burns
Phantom Limbs grabbed me right from the start. I became immediately caught up and involved in Otis's life, soon thereafter Dara's, and a bit later Meg's.

TJ's Time Travel Tips

This is a story about friendship, hardships, the different ways in which people deal with hardships and loss, love, friendship, and... friendship. I was captivated, asking question after question. Each time I got an answer, so many more questions were presented.

The writing is amazing
Kali Wallace
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oh, this is a completely lovely book! The characters are so complex and layered, the writing is stunning, and the story is both heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. It's the story of families and individuals learning to go on after terrible tragedy, but it's never dark or overwhelming.

Otis is the most darling main characters ever, and all the people around him are completely fascinating. His friendship with Dara is one of the most complicated and beautiful and frustrating friendships I'v
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
As I read this quiet coming of age story, I kept noting, "Wow. This is good!" And it continued to be. A great debut novel.

Oh...I forgot to add my favorite, home-hitting quote:

"Why were women so sexy with eating?
What if I never developed bedroom skills that could compete with food?
What if, I actually got to have sex with Meg one day, and she just lay back, bored, daydreaming about pulled pork sandwiches and chocolate eclairs?"

This MAY have reminded me, of me.... and so I couldn't help but bust
Jessica Cluess
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful coming of age story, delicately done. The relationship between Otis and Meg was elegantly handled and very painful. Otis's drill sergeant-like swimming instructor, Dara, absolutely steals the show with her foul mouth and her incredible vulnerability. The character relationships in this book are some of the most nuanced I've read. An absolutely gorgeous read.
Samantha (WLABB)
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, ya
This book. Seriously.

He lost his brother. He lost his first love. Otis believed he had moved on from both of these, but in reality, he had not. After three years, Meg, the first love, returned. This set Otis on a path of healing and self discovery on which he learned so much about himself and the people in his life.
I also hoped Meg has another kind of GPS. One that would navigate her back to me.

Otis, Otis, Otis. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Otis was such a wonderful MC. He was a
Oct 04, 2016 rated it did not like it
Don't mind me, I'll just be in a corner wondering why everyone loved this book so much. There was a moment around the 90% mark where I thought I might give this one more star, but the ending solved that problem for me.

Phantom Limbs had the ingredients to be a great book: second chance love, a character with a disability and who's possibly gay and emotional depth. But the characters ruined it for me. I almost dnf'd this a couple time because I thought I might go blind from rolling my eyes so much
- ̗̀  jess  ̖́-
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was a really interesting exploration of grief, trauma, and friendship, and it was written very well. I was pleasantly surprised, because when I read the synopsis I totally thought it was going to be your straight-up romance with Otis falling in love with Meg and blah blah happily ever after, but that wasn't the case.

The writing was gorgeous, and the characters really stood out - all of them were very well-written. I especially liked Dara, Otis's one-armed swim coach. She had a really
Charnell (Reviews from a Bookworm)
This is more like a 4.5, but I've given up an half stars. This was emotional and moving, beautifully written too. I loved the characters in this. So much to love about this book. Full review coming very soon.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Could hardly read because my eyes were rolling so much. The only thing more insufferable than Meg's character is the protagonist's obsession with her.
Aug 09, 2016 rated it really liked it

It didn’t take me very long to become obsessed with Paula Garner’s Phantom Limbs. I took one glance at the summary when it was revealed, and I knew that it was going to be a book that I needed to read at any costs. My gut feelings about Phantom Limbs were absolutely right: this was a special and gentle story about first love, grief and friendship.

I loved that this book was written in the point of view of Otis. I used to struggle quite a bit with male POVs in the past, but I’ve come to appreciate
Femke (booksfemme)
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

Three years ago Otis's toddler brother died at the home of his next door neighbor/best friend/first love Meg. Shortly afterward, Meg's family moved cross country and he hasn't heard from her since, with the exception of Facebook stalking. Enter Dara, his self-appointed swim coach, who lost her arm in a shark attack. Her goal: make Otis an Olympian. Now Meg's coming back to town and about to turn Otis's world up, down and every which way.

PHANTOM LIMBS tackles the experiences several char
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The YA Addicts.: Phantom Limbs 1 4 Jan 14, 2018 09:29AM  
YA Buddy Readers'...: Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner - September 9, 2016 15 32 Oct 04, 2016 10:51PM  

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Paula Garner spends most of her time writing, reading, or making good things to eat. Her debut YA novel, Phantom Limbs, was published in 2016 by Candlewick Press and is a 2017 Illinois Reads selection for grades 9-12. Paula lives in the Chicago area with her family and a very bad cat. Find out more about Paula and her books at or follow her on Twitter at @paulajgarner. ...more

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“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.” 15 likes
“I didn’t have room inside me for any more pain. As it turned out, though, I was wrong about that.” 5 likes
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