Reviews for Paperboy
Booklist Reviews 2013 April #2
*Starred Review* It's hot in Memphis during the summer of 1959--in all kinds of ways. Things heat up for the book's 11-year-old narrator when he takes over his pal Rat's paper route; meeting new people is a horror for the boy because he stutters. He only really feels comfortable with Rat and Mam, the African American maid who takes care of him when his parents are away, which is often. But being the paperboy forces him to engage in the world and to ask for payments from customers, like pretty, hard-drinking Mrs. Worthington and Mr. Spiro, who gives the boy the confidence to voice his questions and then offers answers that--wondrously--elicit more questions. Others intrude on his life as well. In a shocking scene, Ara T, the dangerous, disturbing junk man tries to take something precious from the boy. In some ways, the story is a set piece, albeit a very good one: the well-crafted characters, hot Southern summer, and coming-of-age events are reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. But this has added dimension in the way it brilliantly gets readers inside the head of a boy who stutters. First-time author Vawter has lived this story, so he is able to write movingly about what it's like to have words exploding in your head with no reasonable exit. This paperboy is a fighter, and his hope fortifies and satisfies in equal measure. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Because of his stuttering, the eleven-year-old narrator seldom speaks. When he takes over his friend's paper route, the task is Herculean: he must talk to strangers. With heartbreaking detail, in a near-stream-of-consciousness narrative, he describes his difficulties: how he uses the "Gentle Air" method or shouts certain words. An eloquent debut novel set in 1959 Memphis.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #4
In this debut novel based on the author's childhood and set in 1959 Memphis, readers meet an eleven-year-old narrator who has a substantial vocabulary and can consider many sides of an issue but who, because of his stuttering, seldom speaks. When he takes over his best friend's paper route for the summer, the task is Herculean. He can withstand the July heat, fold the papers extra tight, and throw them with precision. But he must collect payment every week, compelling him to talk to strangers. He writes the way he speaks, using plenty of ands but few commas, creating a near stream-of-consciousness narrative. With heartbreaking detail, he describes his difficulties, how he uses the "Gentle Air" method of blowing out a few breaths before certain consonants, or shouts certain words, or tosses an object in the air before uttering a sound. The only name readers know him by is Little Man, the one given him by Mam, his family's black maid. Her presence accurately reflects the times, and, to some extent, Vawter sidesteps the stereotype by combining Mam's need for personal justice with her protection of Little Man. Still, it is the paper route that Little Man must conquer on his own, and the people he meets during his journey he must understand. In a compelling climax, he, still stuttering, proudly announces his real name; the moment is as eloquent as his story. betty carter
Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #1
Little Man, whose real name isn't revealed until the conclusion, stutters badly, a situation that presents new difficulties now that he's taken over his friend's paper route for a month. Debut author Vawter depicts a harshly segregated 1959 Memphis, and since the tale is highly autobiographical, he captures a full and realistic flavor of the time. Little Man, as he's called by his brave, black live-in housekeeper, Mam, has a few less-than-effective strategies that he employs to control his stutter, but it dominates his life nonetheless. Along the paper route, he encounters three fully rounded characters who make their mark on the story: Mrs. Worthington, a young, attractive and abused wife who drinks too much and awakens in Little Man a new, albeit very safe, interest in the opposite sex; Mr. Spiro, a widely read retired seaman who offers Little Man heartfelt advice and insightful support; and scary junkman Ara T, who steals Little Man's knife and evolves into a looming threat both to the boy and Mam. Carefully crafted language, authenticity of setting and quirky characters that ring fully true all combine to make this a worthwhile read. Although Little Man's stutter holds up dialogue, that annoyance also powerfully reflects its stultifying impact on his life. An engaging and heartfelt presentation that never whitewashes the difficult time and situation as Little Man comes of age. (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 March #3
The name of debut novelist Vawter's 11-year-old protagonist, Vincent Vollmer III, doesn't appear until the very end of this tense, memorable story--Vincent's stutter prevents him from pronouncing it. Vincent is an excellent listener and a keen observer, and the summer of 1959 presents him with the challenge of taking over a friend's paper route in segregated Memphis. He engages with several neighborhood customers and characters while on the job, gaining new awareness of varied adult worlds, racial tension, and inequality, as well as getting into some dangerous situations. Vawter draws from his own childhood experience at a time "when modern speech therapy techniques were in their infancy," he writes in an endnote, calling the story "more memoir than fiction." The story unfolds as Vincent's typewritten account of the summer, and inventive syntax is used throughout. Commas and quotation marks are verboten--Vincent isn't a fan of the former, since he has enough extra pauses in his life already--and extra spaces appear between paragraphs, all subtly highlighting his uneasy relationship with the spoken word. Ages 10-up. Agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. (May) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2013 May
Gr 6-9--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.--Devin Burritt, Wells Public Library, ME [Page 130]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.