The Phantom Twin

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Phantom Twin Book Poster Image
Twin teens face sideshow life in haunting graphic novel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Although a fantasy, The Phantom Twin portrays some actual facts about history of carnival sideshows. Glossary of carnival lingo.

Positive Messages

People with disabilities can find constructive ways to accommodate them. Siblings need to look out for each other.

Positive Role Models & Representations

After Jane dies during experimental surgery, Isabel desperately misses her formerly conjoined twin. Outfitted with artificial limbs, she tries to maintain her life as part of a carnival sideshow but yearns for something else. Thanks to diverse group of friends, she finds inner strength to be comfortable with her outer appearance and foster her own creative urges.

Violence

When the hicks discover they've been duped by the carnies, a fistfight erupts. A gang of thugs threatens a young woman with assault. She defends herself with a knife.

Sex

Isabel kisses a boy in the Tunnel of Love. She flirts with Tom and later becomes his girlfriend.

Language

A thug calls Isabel a "bitch."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult and an older teen smoke tobacco.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Phantom Twin is a fantasy graphic novel written and illustrated by Lisa Brown (The Airport Book). The graphic novel tells the tale of two formerly conjoined twins -- one a ghost -- who want to find a life beyond the carnival sideshow. There's some mild swearing ("bitch"), a bit of flirting, and a threat of physical assault. The diverse cast of self-proclaimed "freaks" is portrayed with humor and sensitivity.

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What's the story?

As THE PHANTOM TWIN opens, Jane and Isabel are conjoined twins who work as a sideshow attraction. After Jane dies during surgery, Isabel returns to the carnival with artificial limbs and the lingering ghostly presence of her sister. Even though one of them is a ghost, the girls have very different outlooks on life. Will Jane stand in the way of Isabel seeking a life outside the carnival?

Is it any good?

Carnival sideshows are thankfully a thing of the past, but this charming and sensitive graphic novel uses its historical setting to tell a tale of individual ambition and sibling reconciliation. Author-illustrator Lisa Brown's lively, colorful art perfectly matches the action and tone of The Phantom Twin. The book is aimed primarily at female readers, but boys are likely to enjoy the story if they give it a chance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Phantom Twin portrays life in a carnival sideshow in the first half of the 20th century. What was it like to be a "freak"? Why are sideshows no longer a part of carnivals or amusement parks?

  • How does the novel address the issue of disability? How do people characterize themselves as differently abled?

  • Many of the characters are fascinated by tattoos. How has public opinion of body art changed over the years?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels and ghost stories

Themes & Topics

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