“The Phantom Limb” by William Sleator and Ann Monticone (Abrams, 2011)

Phantom Limb

Bestselling author and delighter of many children’s minds, William Sleator, returns with Ann Monticone – after collaborating on Test – in likely his last novel, The Phantom Limb.  While Sleator sadly passed away earlier this year, The Phantom Limb is a fantastic send off, employing some of his great story telling with a truly terrifying and unforgettable plot.

Isaac is the new boy in town, who dreads each day going to school and having to deal with a bullying pair of twins and all sorts of ridicule.  Friendless, he enjoys what time he can at home, entertained with his growing collection of optical illusions.  His mother is ill with a mysterious sickness, permanently in the hospital, while Isaac is lonely at home, tending after his grandfather who may be suffering from dementia.  As he begins to get used to the new house, he finds a leftover item from the previous tenants, an optical illusion in fact: a mirror box that is designed for amputees as it creates the illusion of a second limb.

As Isaac spends his time visiting his mother, she seems to be growing sicker and sicker, instead of getting better and yet the doctors and nurses don’t seem to know what’s wrong with her.  Isaac starts to suspect that someone at the hospital may be intentionally making her sicker.  As for the mirror box, he has noticed something special about it: there’s an additional limb in there – a phantom limb – that appears only before him.  It seems to be trying to tell him something, but Isaac will have to work out who this phantom limb belongs to, who the previous tenants were, and how they are linked with the hospital and its suspicious staff.  But Isaac will stop at nothing, because his mother’s life depends on it.

Sleator does what he does best in The Phantom Limb, revealing an incredible story that grows and becomes more and more bizarre, with the fantastic and the unbelievable; and yet Sleator keeps the reader reading along, linking plot lines and tangents, bringing them all together in  a logical conclusion that will leave the reader astounded.

Originally written on October 13, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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