Standalone. Candlewick (Sept. 13, 2016) NetGalley
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.
Otis was devastated after he lost his little brother and not long after his best friend/first love moved away to California. He used to be more of a nerdy kid who wasn't into any sports. Now he's still a nerd who is nicknamed Shakespeare for his love of writing poetry and he is a lot more desired for his swimmer physique. Otis hasn't been with anyone since Meg. He's very shy and can't get over Meg's betrayal. She never spoke or wrote to him again for three years. Until this morning when she texts him that she's coming to visit the area for three weeks. So many emotions are flooding Otis but Dara, his coach and only friend, doesn't want him ruining his focus for some girl who left him.
Dara doesn't care much for anyone but Otis in her own weird way. She's constantly yelling at him and ordering him to not eat any junk - to swim this way or that. All this is because she wants him to go to the Olympics even if Otis doesn't think he has a chance. She wants this so bad for him because she lost her chance after an accident left one of her arm's taken off and left with a stump. She worries over Otis without really saying it out loud. Meg is going to be a force - only time will tell if Otis will finally get the answers he's always been seeking from her.
It feels like there is so much I need to say but I don't know where to start. I'll start with Otis and Dara first because they kick off the story. Otis is shy and kind of brooding but not in a mean jerk kind of way. He and Dara are really close. Their personalities mesh together quite seamlessly. Dara is pretty tough but she's dealing with a lot without any support other than Otis. Otis is the only one who has her back. He for some reason does not realize until towards the end. He doesn't really define their relationship as best friends even though they clearly are. I wanted him to see so much how much Dara cares for him and how much she was hurting. There are moments where they talk about sexual acts that are so crude that it bothered me so much. There was really no need to go there. It added nothing to the story.
There were great moments of raw emotion that got me tear eyed and sad. When Otis talked about his little brother Mason, it sent all of these images and scenarios in my head that made me feel for Otis and particularly his mother. Now everything had so much potential. It was going fairly well and then Meg shows up. I already didn't like her description and Dara projected a lot of her feelings towards Meg to me. I just knew I wasn't going to like her. As the story went on I was just seeing what would happen. Maybe I will change my mind. Surrounding Meg was a whole big mystery. How did Mason die and why did she leave? There were times where I was like "Wow, this is crazy. I really want to know what happened!" And then I continued to tell myself that over and over and over again. Until, I just grew tired of Meg. I literally groaned after I finished a chapter. GROANED. I was so tired of Meg acting like she was a victim and flirting on Otis when she clearly has a boyfriend and is stringing both of them along. She has no sense of loyalty. From their first conversation together she would flirt with Otis and ask him to please tell her a memory of them together as kids... And then she would get mad that he would choose Dara over her when clearly Dara needed help at that time. He would complain about Dara and the boyfriend all the time too. I was getting tired of Otis ridiculousness too! It was just endless. I wanted to get to the point so badly. Finally, when the big reveal was made I actually teared up because it was so freaking sad! But then the story continued on with the two idiots. *Sigh* The plot was wonderful, the writing was great, but everything was so overshadowed by a relationship I didn't want to happen. Maybe if Meg had her own POV I would have understood where she was coming from but no matter what I didn't like all the drama that went nowhere.
Overall, I can see others liking Phantom Limbs but this was not for me.
Thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick for letting me read and review Phantom Limbs in exchange for an honest review!