Published by Candlewick Press, Walker Books Australia on September 27th 2016
Source: Purchased, Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
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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 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.
I love a book that deals with grief and Phantom Limbs delivers a wonderful story about grief. What I really loved about it was that it wasn’t dark and heavy, but instead was relatively lighthearted and charming. Rather than solely focusing on grief as a theme, this book also explores friendship and first love and how these things are affected by grief or tragic things that happen in life. It was a novel that was written with great sensitivity and I was able to completely connect with it because of how honest the emotions were.
Phantom Limbs is written from the perspective of Otis, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading from his perspective. I’m always extremely wary when it comes to male POVs, especially when there is romance involved because there always tends to be Manic Pixie Dream Girl elements. Phantom Limbs didn’t have this, for which I was extremely grateful. I was a initially worried because Otis seemed to be doing a lot of pining for Meg, his childhood best friend and first love, but Paula Garner definitely managed to steer her story away from being yet another MPDG book. Otis was probably the main reason why I enjoyed this book so much. His voice was funny and relatable and I thought it was an extremely insightful portrayal of the daily life and thoughts of a teenage boy. Otis was a great main character. He was incredibly caring and thoughtful and treated his friends and himself with a lot of respect.
I also thought that the friendships in this book were incredible. My favourite friendship in the book was the one between Otis and Dara, his swimming coach. Dara was a swimming prodigy until she lost her arm in shark attack. She now suffers from phantom pains, feelings of failure and feelings of confusion about her sexual orientation. Otis was there to support Dara through her physical and mental pain even though he often saw her as a drill sergeant who had unrealistic expectations of him. It was really beautiful to see all the things he did for her and all the times he put her needs before the things that he wanted. And of course, I also enjoyed the friendship between Otis and Meg, though I didn’t feel as strongly about it as I did Otis and Dara. It took me a little while to like Meg, mostly because I was anticipating that she’d be another MPDG but I began to connect with her halfway through the book. I loved the past history and the connection that Otis and Meg had, and I really enjoyed watching them gradually reconnect and let each other in.
I thought Phantom Limbs was a fantastic debut novel. It was thoughtful and sensitive and had a perfect balance of grief, friendship and first love.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks to Walker Books Australia for sending a review copy!The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years, #1) by Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years #1
Published by Smashwords on April 4th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
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The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else. What now?
She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.
Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league. Also, he’s taken.
Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.
They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.
But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.
I read very little new adult fiction because I feel like most of the ones that I have read have all had similar themes and concepts. However, The Year We Fell Down came highly recommended to me and I thought I would check it out because I was intrigued by the fact that both the main character and the love interest had physical disabilities. I thought this element of the book was executed extremely well. The novel made me consider things about disabilities and accessibility that I’ve never given a second thought. It was incorporated into the book in a way that felt very genuine and thoughtful and I thought it worked really well.
Sports books are not my thing and I know close to nothing about ice hockey (sorry, we don’t do winter sports things here in Australia), but I have to admit that I quite enjoyed it. All of the hockey references flew over my head but I didn’t mind that there were a lot of references because I found that it injected a lot of fun into the book. It was the main thing that Corey, our main character, and Hartley, her hot neighbour, had in common and I loved watching them interact because of hockey, despite neither of them being able to play.
Corey and Hartley had some really good banter together and I liked their relationship. However, there is some cheating in this book and it put a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I really dislike the trope where the love interest has a bitchy and rude girlfriend who’s not right for him and isn’t really even in the story… but they’re still together. It’s always been my opinion that if a character isn’t even in the book, they shouldn’t be there at all. I just didn’t like the “he’s taken” aspect of the book very much because it was obvious that Corey was much better to and for Hartley than his actual girlfriend and she didn’t need to be in the book in the first place. End rant.
The Year We Fell Down was a very quick read and I enjoyed it for the most part. I had some issues with the romance and the cheating in the story but I thought it ended in a really heartwarming way. I also enjoyed some of the side characters and I’m excited to pick up some of the other books in the series so that I can read about them.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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