Moving on has never been Otis’s strong suit. After three years, he’s still reeling from the death of his younger brother, Mason, and from the sudden departure of his best friend and first love, Meg, whose family moved across the country after Mason died. Otis would never have survived these last few years without Dara, his ball-busting, one-armed friend and self-appointed swim coach, who is hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. Otis, though, is increasingly sure that he’d rather find his own dream than continue chasing Dara’s — especially when he learns that, after three years of radio silence, Meg is coming back for the summer. All Otis wants is for him and Meg to be as close as they once were (okay, maybe a little closer) — despite Meg’s mysterious defection, despite the football player all over her Facebook page, despite Dara’s tightening grip and loosening screws. But as they sift through the archaeology of their past and Otis discovers the reasons behind Meg’s disappearance, he must face some uneasy truths about his brother’s death — and about himself. As he realizes that none of their visions of the perfect future can ever pan out — not Dara’s, not Meg’s, not his — Otis must decide which dreams to hold on to and which to leave behind.
Ten years ago Otis's little brother, Mason, died of an accident. Nine years ago, Meg and her family moved from their Chicago suburb to California. Eight years ago, Otis met Dara at the public pool. Two lives are torn apart while 2 more are crushed together, with Otis smack in the middle. With Meg gone, Otis latches onto the Olympic swimming regime that Dara, who lost an arm in an accident, relentlessly coaches him on. While Meg is still constantly on his mind, Otis tries his best - but not very hard - to stay involved with the rest of his peers. When Meg comes back to visit over the summer, Otis's carefully constructed post-Mason routine is turned upside down.
Otis, Dara, and Meg all make amazing personal journeys throughout the course of the novel. Being able to see Otis change during his interactions with Meg, watching Meg and learning about her issues, and seeing how strong Dara really is - these strong characters are what makes this novel great.
The novel's biggest weakness is its single protagonist. Both Meg and Dara are fascinating characters, but they could have been further developed by providing their point of view. I found that viewing them entirely from Otis's point of view, while interesting because he is such a flawed character, really weakened my connections to the girls.
The Verdict: A strong debut, PHANTOM LIMBS is a moving account of the struggles of three teens with grief, love, and change.
Worth a read, a glimpse into the hearts of the complexity of being teenager and dealing with bigger issues than every day life.
I won this ARC as part of the YA Book Central Giveaways.