The Plot (in 5 sentences or less): Set in 1959 Memphis, Tennessee, an 11 year old takes over a friend’s paper route for a few weeks during the summer. The young man suffers from stuttering and it colors his entire life. As he slowly makes his rounds, he becomes involved in the lives of his customers which opens up greater questions. What should he do, for example, about the possible domestic abuse suffered by one lady or the riddles scribbled on a dollar bill given to him by one erudite man? Events come to a violent head when his housekeeper confronts the local homeless man about some items stolen from the household.
My Take: Credit should be given to Mr. Vawter for using a protagonist with a speech impediment. Any teen with a stuttering challenge should absolutely read this book. The author does an excellent job of showing the reader what it is like to live daily with this problem.
Vawter has a restrained writing style that allows him to slowly construct the characters and the plot. Because of this, Paperboy may be too slowly plotted for some young readers. Much of the book is committed to the narrator’s cautious approach to building relationships with adults in his life. Still, towards the end of the book, I did get some goosebumps, that visceral test of any work of art.
One Interesting Note About the Author: Vince Vawter’s first memory of his stutter is just before the age of 5. Despite his stutter, he has had a rewarding career in newspapers. As he tell it in the author’s note, “have I been cured of my stutter? No. Have I overcome it? Yes.”