Friday, May 10, 2013

Guy Friday-- Paper Boy

PaperboyVawter, Vince. Paperboy.
14 May 2013, Delacorte Books for Young Readers
ARC from Publisher

Typing is a whole lot easy than speaking when you have a stutter, so that's how our protagonist chooses to tell his tale. When his friend Rat has to spend the summer at his grandparents' farm, it's easy enough for the boy to deliver the newspapers on his friend's route, but somewhat more difficult to knock on doors, introduce himself, and collect the 95 cents per week. In 1959 Memphis, there are a lot of interesting characters. At home, there are his busy parents, as well as Mam, his African American nanny. On his route, there's the drunken and troubled Mrs. Worthington, a boy who watches television with the sound off, and Mr. Spiro, who is the first person to talk to the boy about his stutter and to help him make some sense out of his life. Add to this mix some trouble with a local handyman, Ara T, the discovery that his father might not be his father, and a growing knowledge of the inequities in Civil Rights for Mam, and the summer of the paper route becomes on of personal revelation and growth.
Strengths: This was beautifully written and palpably sad. The main character (whose name is not said until the very end of the book because of the difficulties he has pronouncing it) is the most ALONE character I think I have ever encountered. His parents are rarely around, his only friend is out of town, and the only people he can turn to for company are adults with various problems of their own. I figured that this was a largely autobiographical book, so I was glad to read the author's notes at the end describing how well his life has gone. I can't think of another book with a main character who stutters. Information is included about that as well.
Weaknesses: There is not a lot of action, so even though the main character is 11, it has the introspective feel of a book for older readers. Oddly, I was very distracted by the paragraph style. The paragraphs are not indented, but rather have an extra line between the paragraphs. I think this bothered me because the boy talks about typing his memoirs, and I don't think this style of formatting came into widespread use until word processors. I would have set the book in Courier rather than Goudy font. (I will be the only person this bothers, but I love my 1958 Smith-Corona and used it a lot when I was eleven!)

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timetraveltimestwo said...

As a former speech-language pathologist, I'd be very interested to see how the stuttering was addressed. There are so many myths about stuttering,but it sounds like you alluded to the fact that the author may himself have been a stutterer, so I'm hopeful he did not misrepresent this fluency disorder.

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