Author: Vince Vawter
Grade(s): 6; 7; 8
After an overthrown baseball busts his best friend’s lip, 11-year-old Victor Vollmer takes over the boy’s paper route. This is a particularly daunting task for the able-armed Victor, as he has a prominent stutter that embarrasses him and causes him to generally withdraw from the world. Through the paper route he meets a number of people, gains a much-needed sense of self and community, and has a life-threatening showdown with a local cart man. The story follows the boy’s 1959 Memphis summer with a slow but satisfying pace that builds to a storm of violence. The first-person narrative is told in small, powerful block paragraphs without commas, which the stuttering narrator loathes. Vawter portrays a protagonist so true to a disability that one cannot help but empathize with the difficult world of a stutterer. Yet, Victor’s story has much broader appeal as the boy begins to mature and redefine his relationship with his parents, think about his aspirations for the future, and explore his budding spirituality. The deliberate pacing and unique narration make Paperboy a memorable coming-of-age novel.