Book: The Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Publisher: Penguin Random House, USA
Audience: Children (age 10+), teen and adult fiction/memoir readers
This book is a winner of the Yearling Newberry medal and part of the year ten curriculum for English in Australian schools. The author states that it is more memoir than fiction and is an account of the summer a stuttering boy from Memphis takes over his friend’s paper round.
I admit to knowing stutterers in my personal life so immediately my sympathy was evoked when reading this book with my teen daughter for her high school assignment. That said, nothing prepared me for the lack of punctuation: commas and quotation marks are not used as this boy “does not like to pause”. Has a novel about a stuttering protagonist ever been attempted before? It didn’t take long for me to realise why this book had earnt itself a medal. I became fascinated to learn of the inner workings of the mind of a stutterer and had no idea that words starting with ‘s’ are much easier to pronounce than others.
Vince Vawter is an author who is gifted at showing rather than telling and has the ability to place the reader in the character’s shoes. As the reader, we powerfully feel the angst and suffering of a child by use of a very simple vocabulary and informal tone of language which is exactly matched to the protagonists age. There is no purple prose, sentimentality or melodrama and yet we understand profoundly the attachment he feels to his nanny, Mam, the pain at not feeling close to his parents – at first anyway – and the confusion and misery of living in a racist environment. The text flows in a logical and interesting way and by the end of the book things have naturally culminated to a point that brings the boy to the next phase of his development even though not all of the problems are resolved. I give this book a ten out of ten and would recommend it to any reader.
©LMM – Written 1st November, 2017