The Phantom Limb
Author: William Sleator and Ann Monticone
Publisher: Amulet Books
3½ out of 5 stars
It is just a box. It’s called a mirror box. If I stick my right hand in one side I can see my left hand on the other, even when it’s not in the box. It’s weird to see your hand in one place, but feel it in another. The hand in the box is a copycat. Everything I do, it does as well. If I wave, it waves. If I snap my fingers twice, it snaps its fingers twice. If I pull my hand out of the box, it… stays in the box. This is more than just a box.
Isaac’s life isn’t going so great at the moment. Things were better a year ago when Isaac still lived in their grand, old house, his father was still alive, his mother wasn’t sick, his grandpa was his old, lively self, and Isaac wasn’t teased and taunted at school. Ever since then things have gone in a downward spiral, and all Isaac has for comfort is his collection of optical illusions. But the mirror box is about to change all of that.
The mirror box is just that, a box with mirrors. After much Googling, Isaac discovers that the mirror box was invented for amputees to use to relieve pain. In many cases after a person has a limb severed off they still feel excruciating pain as if that limb was still intact. The “phantom limb” was often times bent into uncomfortable positions, and by using the mirror box the amputee could fix that. The amputee would stick their limb that was still intact into the mirror box and in the reflection they would see their severed limb. They could then move it into a comfortable position and therefore “fix” the issue. But Isaac’s mirror box does more than just that.
When Isaac tries out the mirror box for the first time the phantom limb inside acts on its own accord. At first, Isaac is terrified and isn’t sure what the phantom limb wants. But Isaac soon realizes that the phantom limb is trying to tell him something. The phantom limb communicates with Isaac, and soon Isaac is on a mission to stop someone who is out to kill his mother. Will Isaac and the phantom limb be able to stop the killer before it is too late? Who does the phantom limb belong to? William Sleator and Ann Monticone reveal all in their tale of one boy’s journey to rise up and prove who he really is in, The Phantom Limb!
Filled with mystery and suspense, The Phantom Limb kept me on a rapid chase to find the killer. New elements were always added to the mix and I could never be sure who to trust. Isaac struggles with what to really believe and must search within himself to find the audacity to challenge those above him. I suggest this book for teens thirteen and up who are looking for a thriller that will keep them guessing.
I was really excited to get the chance to read another one of William Sleator’s books. After reading his book Test (which I learned Ann Monticone also collaborated with him on) I was looking forward to see how The Phantom Limb fared. They were two very different books, but both had a recurring theme of finding out who was responsible. In both books I was led on a wild chase that kept me guessing and had sinister villains as well. I’m sorry to say that William Sleator passed away in August, two months before the book was released.
The use of optical illusions and the mirror box was rather out of the ordinary, and it was interesting to get to see Isaac’s hobby turn into a valuable source of information against his foes. It was hard to tell at times what was reality and what was really figments of Isaac’s imagination. At times I questioned if Isaac was actually communicating with the phantom limb or if it was just his subconscious. As the story progressed it became evident that there was more at work here than I could have ever imagined.
Isaac developed immensely throughout The Phantom Limb as did many other characters. Isaac started out as a sullen boy, who accepted whatever came his way. By the end of the book Isaac had transformed into a confident, young boy who was out to set things right. Even Isaac’s grandpa and the kids who used to taunt him went through some changes of their own.
The Phantom Limb reminded me of a classic mystery novel. Isaac followed a trail of clues with the help of the phantom limb, and later on his newfound friends as well. They encountered some dead ends and had to backtrack at times, but ultimately they accomplished what they set out to do. The Phantom Limb had a very interesting, unexpected plot line that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
The Phantom Limb delves into the weird and wacky and entertains the reader with its dry humor. With characters that won’t take no for an answer, this book is one that will keep you reading until the very end. Join Isaac, as he journeys to save his mother and himself in, The Phantom Limb!
-This is T.B. with Another Book Back on the Shelf…
Until Next Time, Keep Reading!