March 20, 2020 • Cee • Comics
The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown • March 3, 2019 • First Second

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Isabel and Jane are the Extraordinary Peabody Sisters, conjoined twins in a traveling carnival freak show—until an ambitious surgeon tries to separate them and fails, causing Jane’s death. Isabel has lost an arm and a leg but gained a ghostly companion: Her dead twin is now her phantom limb. Haunted, altered, and alone for the first time, can Isabel build a new life that’s truly her own?


I received this graphic novel for free from First Second for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “I wake up afraid to open my eyes.”

Losing a conjoined twin puts a whole different spin on “phantom limb.” But that’s exactly what Isabel feels when she loses Jane; it’s like losing a limb—another part of herself that she feels like Jane’s still there when she isn’t.

Welcome to the Carnival Sideshow where you meet freaks of “ten acts under one tent for one low, low price”! You have Harold the Wild Boy, Alice the fat lady, Nora the tattooed snake charmer, and so much more! Oh! And lest I forget the Extraordinary Peabody Sisters, a pair of conjoined twins, who stars in this graphic novel!

Yes, Isabel and Jane are conjoined twins in a traveling carnival freak show. They’ve been through it all—the good and the bad—but at least they have each other. That is, until a surgeon convinces Jane that he can successfully separate them. And although Isabel tries to convince her sister that they shouldn’t go through it, Jane wins, but at the cost of her life. The dynamic between the two sisters before and after their separation is a great change, especially for Isabel who now has to survive on her own. No more Jane domineering over Isabel, doing whatever she wants to do. That uncertainty Isabel felt was heartbreaking—you see her worry and grieve alone and fight for her place in this cruel world who doesn’t want her. For her, there’s no greater pain than losing the one person who was by her side no matter what. Now she has to navigate the world on her own, trying to figure out what she wants.

I love the focus on carnival freak shows. There’s something so sad and unsettling about them, but The Phantom Twin shows you that these are human beings living their lives. They may look different, but they have thoughts and feelings like everybody else. They’re trying to survive with what they got, and what they got is how people see them. 

Because of the content of the book, I got a melancholic vibe that fit perfectly with the art style, which is frickin’ fantastic. Lisa Brown does a beautiful job illustrating these characters and creating this atmospheric mood that really transport readers to this time and place where carnival freak shows were prevalent. It’s so lovely. Her art is one of the styles my eyeballs and soul enjoy immensely.

Who should read The Phantom Twin? Everybody. Readers who like melancholiness. Readers who like books exploring freak shows. 

Should you read The Phantom Twin? Yes


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