Fig Swims the World – Lou Abercrombie

Spoilers Ahead!

I’m sick of my mother controlling me. She’s hacked into my life for too long, insisting on her ‘It’s my way or the highway’ rules; on me having to follow her timetable, dressing the way she suggests; achieving the New Year’s resolutions she makes for me.

Mubla decides what her daughter’s New Year’s resolution is going to be each year. Fig isn’t allowed to quit or fail, even if she hates the goal her mother has chosen. This year Mubla has signed Fig up for acting lessons. Fig doesn’t want to act and the idea of being on a stage terrifies her.

Fig has had enough of her mother controlling her. She decides to make her own resolution: Fig is going to swim the world! There’s just one catch; she can’t swim. Oh, and she’s scared of swimming. And of plenty of animals that live in the water. And of being alone. And the list goes on.

Speaking of lists, Fig loves making them. She also loves maths. Both will come in handy as she plans her adventure.

“It’s as much about the mental challenge as the physical. All you need is self-belief …”

I was looking forward to following Fig’s adventure around the world and when I learned of her struggles with anxiety I was even more invested in her success. I was keen to watch her learn to manage her anxiety, striving to achieve a goal that scared her. However, the more I got to know Fig the less I liked her. She was selfish and spoilt, and she annoyed me so much. The majority of the time Fig was more concerned with getting caught than with the impact her disappearance would be having on the people who love her.

I’ve disliked the main character in other books and still enjoyed the story though, so my frustration with Fig wouldn’t have been an issue for me if it wasn’t for my inability to suspend my disbelief. I read a lot of children’s and YA books and usually don’t have a problem with this. In this instance though, I think it would have helped if I could have read Fig’s story when I was a child. Unfortunately, adult me kept getting distracted, having trouble believing Fig’s year would have transpired the way it did.

Although her parents are supposedly searching for Fig and there’s a social media campaign to find her, she manages to elude everyone for months when this should not have been the case. Why?

  1. Fig used her mother’s credit card to finance the travel portion of her adventure. Her mother and/or the Police could have easily tracked her every step of the way. Why didn’t her mother advise her credit card company that the charges were fraudulent and cancelled them? Fig couldn’t have continued travelling all over the place if her travel reservations were cancelled. If, as her mother claimed, she knew where Fig was then why didn’t she go and bring her home immediately?
  2. Fig uploaded photos of herself to social media along the way. Yes, her account was set to private some of the time but surely someone could have done a reverse image search, figured out her alias and found her by checking the metadata on her photographs.

This family seem to have the kind of money I could only dream of. The swimming equipment that Fig purchased with a “leftover birthday gift voucher” would be equivalent to my income for about two months. Fig doesn’t understand why her mother won’t trust her when she’s previously given her no reason not to, and I understand wanting to rebel against a controlling parent. However, the amount of money Fig must have stolen from her parents and her disregard for the morality of this decision got under my skin.

I had a particular soft spot for Jago, Fig’s younger brother. I wanted to get to know him better. I don’t know how Fig could leave Jago without really considering how her absence would affect him. I also didn’t think she was a good friend to Stella, who was supposed to be her best friend. I wish I could have spent more time with Sage and Myrtle; they were interesting enough to warrant an entire book dedicated to their lives.

Some scenes were too convenient for me and others quite predictable. It seemed awfully convenient for Fig to be seated next to an open water swimmer on a plane when she needed information and encouragement specific to this. The identity of one of the people who follows Fig on social media seemed obvious to me, yet she didn’t figure out who it was until near the end of her adventure. I expected the reveal about one of the minor characters, which happened late in the book, once the first clue was planted.

I admired Fig’s determination in facing her fears and achieving her goal, despite the anxiety she experienced, but I wanted to give her a good talking to whenever she felt the need to complain while she was doing exactly what she wanted.

I hate sailing! I’m sick of this trip!

I’ve loved all of the other books published by Little Tiger Group as much, or even more, than I expected to, so I’m really disappointed that this one didn’t work for me. If I’d managed to get out of my head early on when I was questioning the practicalities I probably would have been able to just keep swimming. Please read some other reviews before deciding if this is the book for you or not. I hope it’s a five star read for you.

Bubble, bubble, breathe.

Content warnings include anxiety and bullying. If you have emetophobia you may find it difficult to read some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Stripes Publishing, an imprint of Little Tiger Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Fig Fitzsherbert is good at a lot of things: making lists, playing the piano, advanced mathematics. But it’s never quite enough for her high-flying mother, who every New Year’s Day sets Fig an impossible resolution. So one year, Fig decides to set her own challenge instead: she’s going to swim her way round the world. There’s just one tiny problem … Fig can’t swim. Taking it one length at a time, Fig embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. But with her mother closing in, will she be able to keep her head above water and complete her challenge?

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