Just Loved Reading:
Middle Grade Fiction
Vawter, Vince. Paperboy. New York: Delacorte Press, 2013
“Words in the air blow away as soon as you say them but words on paper last forever.” (Paperboy, p 21)
Memphis, Tennessee, 1959. The protagonist in Paperboy can’t say his name without inhaling big gulps of Gentle Air as his speech therapist taught him. (We learn his name in the last chapter and that his first name and his last name start with the same letter.) Some words are easier to say than other words depending on the first letter of the word because some letters are easier to pronounce than others.
He calls his best friend Rat because it’s easier to say than his real name, Art.
He throws a mean ball, though – it’s the one thing he knows he’s good at – in the opinion of his team. He feels at home on the baseball mound but not everywhere else in his white suburban world.
He takes over Art’s paper route for one month even though he knows it will be hard for him to communicate with the customers on collection day. He knows he’s taking on a challenge. But the people and the events that he encounters, the hidden family secret he uncovers and the surprising new friends he makes during that month and on that paper route changes his attitude life forever.
And that is just the beginning.
WHY I LOVED READING THIS BOOK:
The protagonist is one of the most likable, sympathetic, inspiring children in children and Young Adult literature that I have ever read about. I wanted to hug him. Other readers may want to hug him, too. He never stops thinking of ways to overcome his stuttering but confesses his loneliness because his stuttering sets him apart from other kids. In spite of everything, he doesn’t give up or feel sorry for himself. Instinctively, he lives one day at a time but tries everyday to overcome his “affliction.”
The reader will root for him through every step of his journey from trying to collect money to witnessing a knifing to becoming friends with a deaf boy and a retired sailor to discovering a family secret. This boy is a hero because of the way he handles himself in these situations with the kinds of people he encounters and the decision he reaches about his family’s past.
In the author’s note, Vince Vawter, a stutterer, quotes James Earl Jones, who overcame his stutter and became a renowned actor: “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” Like the author, the hero in Paperboy realizes that although it is hard for him to speak, he is better at writing words (and throwing a fast ball).
Paperboy will lift up your spirits.