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THE PHANTOM LIMB by William Sleator


by William SleatorAnn Monticone

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8109-8428-8
Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Not even hammer-and-tongs plotting pounds this jumbled mess of random McGuffins into a coherent whole.

A therapeutic “mirror box” that reflects urgent gestures from ghostly hands sucks Isaac into a series of revealing visions and flashbacks through restroom mirrors. Through these glimpses, Isaac comes to realize that the reason his hospitalized piano-teacher mother has been marked to have her arm amputated is because she’s in the care of a nurse who is a serial killer with a particular thing for pianists. Can he whisk her out of the conveniently unstaffed ICU? Yes, with help from two school bullies who suddenly turn into allies, a grandfather with Alzheimer’s who suddenly regains his mind and a vertigo-inducing optical illusion that distracts the killer when she comes after him with a bone saw. Repeated anxious ward visits, multiple red herrings and not one but two scenes in which Isaac is forcibly sedated and then subjected to medical torture (a brutal endoscopy and an MRI) add to the page count but not the weak suspense.

Even Sleator’s confirmed fans will wince at this severely off-key outing. (Suspense. 11-13)