Fig’s life starts to fall apart when she is six years old. Her mother --- a beautiful, fierce and independent woman --- has a schizophrenic episode and attempts to kill herself. After this, nothing is the same. Already an outsider at school, word about her mother and Fig’s own actions prevent her from gaining any close friends. Fig’s relationships at home also begin to disintegrate. Unable to understand his own daughter, Fig’s father slowly becomes estranged from her, and Fig’s overbearing grandmother cares only about turning her into a respectable young lady. Only Sissy Baxter, a girl in her class that works at a flower shop, and her uncle, Billy, provide Fig with any support as she watches the mother she once knew disappear.
Over the next 11 years, Fig is determined to save her mother. At first, Fig believes that her mother will be cured if she can complete a list of ordeals. As Fig completes one ordeal after another, she begins to further distance herself from others around her. When her mother grows worse, Fig becomes self-destructive. The only thing that makes Fig feel like she is in control is picking --- tearing away old scabs and creating fresh wounds. After an accident with her grandmother, picking gives way to something much more dangerous. With the help of her uncle, Fig begins to attempt to heal herself, along with her mother.
"The story is beautifully told with vivid and poetic language, and the reader feels pulled into Fig’s world and her quest to cure her mother."
Thoughtful and moving, FIG is a dynamic novel that will have readers completely hooked from page one. Debut author Sarah Elizabeth Schantz does a great job providing an honest portrayal into life with mental illnesses and the lengths some will go for the ones they love. Told over Fig’s life from ages 6 to 19, the novel details Fig’s physical and emotional journey and the sacrifices she makes for her mother. The story is beautifully told with vivid and poetic language, and the reader feels pulled into Fig’s world and her quest to cure her mother. Schantz does an excellent job of shaping the relationship between Fig and her mother and making the audience care deeply about them.
Fig’s unwavering love for her mother is awe-inspiring and, at times, heartbreaking. Even when she is just a child, Fig is willing to give up anything to have her mom be better again. The other characters are also a strong point for FIG. Billy, Fig’s uncle, is a point of hope throughout the novel, always willing to support Fig. Sissy Baxter is also an interesting character, as her friendship with Fig consists entirely of the two girls sending each other messages through flowers. Completely human, the characters of FIG will have readers invested in the novel until the last page. While I loved both the story and the characters, I felt that the novel ended too soon. I wanted to know what happened to Fig and her family and the rest of the characters. Hopefully, however, this means that we will be seeing more from Schantz soon.
Reviewed by Cheyenne C., Teen Board member on April 17, 2015