Word Spelunking

Paperboy - Vince Vawter Vince Vawter's Paperboy is a very literary middle-grade contemporary story that turned out to be not what I quite expected, but in a really good way.In 1959 Memphis, an 11 year old boy takes over his friend's paper route for a month. The main character, who remains nameless for most of the novel, has a debilitating stutter that keeps him from talking much. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a lot of really profound thoughts. During his month as a paperboy, he encounters several grown-ups (a pretty young wife who drinks too much, a retired merchant marine who seems to know everything, and a bully homeless man) that affect the way he sees the world and himself. And an encounter with the homeless man, leaves the young boy and his beloved housekeeper in danger and changes his life forever.Paperboy is an excellently written coming of age story that deals with very real and tough topics (abuse, racism, disabilities, etc) in a quiet, yet eloquent way. Vawter has given an unforgettable voice to an almost silent young hero and creates a truly memorable tale.Vawter has laid out a very rich and vivid 1959 Memphis setting that will transport readers back into a time when paperboys collected weekly fees, fathers and mothers had very defined and separate roles, and racism was rampant. Vawter's world-building feels very complex, real, thought-out, and believable. And with that believability and realness, comes a story that isn't simple by any means. This book deals with those heavy topics I mentioned above in very real, but sensitive ways. The title character's (the paperboy) coming of age experiences are crafted with authenticity that requires some crass language.But the story itself is not crass or sensationalized; it's merely honest and thought-provoking. The stuttering hero is forever changed by his short stint as a paperboy and the people he meets on the job, but also by the secrets and truths he uncovers in his own home. Vawter weaves a great deal of beauty, insight-fullness, and heart into this story and I found it to be quite poignant and touching.The unnamed (until the end) main character and narrator is incredibly compelling and endearing with his big, smart thoughts and keen observations. Vawter has given him such a wonderful and affective voice.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Paperboy, both the book and its main character, have a quite beauty that is unexpected, yet unforgettable. I really enjoyed this smartly crafted story and recommend it for older middle-grade readers.

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