In A Week With Fiona Wonder, written by Kelly Huddleston, we find ourselves plunked plumb in the midst of the angst of teen Mercy Swimmer and the week before she gets to spend a week with movie star Fiona Wonder. Now, before you dismiss this as just another teen ‘coming of age’ story, I strongly advise that you read it. Mercy is doing her best – at least at times – to function in a dysfunctional environment, surrounded by dysfunctional people.
Huddleston paints an environment of economic adversity, where no one is exempt from pain. Not Mercy’s mother, an asthmatic who works two jobs as a waitress to support the two of them. We’re never really told where Mercy’s father got off to, and frankly, by the time we’re halfway through Mercy’s week, we no longer care. Mercy’s mom, though, is one of the most tragically flawed, yet sympathetic, figures in the book – aside from Mercy herself. Severely asthmatic, she foregoes buying a rescue inhaler so that she can buy a trinket for Mercy that wins her a chance to spend a week with Fiona Wonder, a movie star about whom we know little other than that she has a big head on screen, but seems to be beset with as many doubts as her adoring fans.
Then, there’s Valerie, Mercy’s overweight, over-indulged best friend. Valerie treats Mercy like an old shoe, yet Mercy keeps coming back for more. Likewise, there’s Nikki, her mom’s friend, who is also something of a narcissistic personality with relationship issues.
One more warning: while this is a book written about a teenager, it’s not really written for younger readers. It deals with very adult issues, in a blunt, uncompromising way – often even profane. It is also definitely not a coming of age novel; more a surviving from sunup to sundown story. You never know from page to page, really, whether you want to cheer Mercy on or slap her silly. However you feel, though, I predict you’ll keep reading to see what happens next.