Today's March MG Madness post features my review of Paperboy by Vince Vawter and a giveaway to win an ebook copy!
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An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend's paper route for the month of July, he knows he'll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything. The paper route poses challenges, but it's a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble--and puts the boy's life, as well as that of his family's devoted housekeeper, in danger.
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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.
Vince Vawter, a native of Memphis, retired after a 40-year career in newspapers, most recently as the president and publisher of the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press. In 2002-2003 he was president of the board of directors of the Hoosier State Press Association. He previously served as managing editor of The Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel and news editor of the now-defunct Memphis Press-Scimitar. He lives with his wife in Louisville, Tenn., on a small farm in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Win an e-ARC of Paperboy!
The awesome people at Random House have generously offered one e-galley to give away.
-OPEN TO ANYONE WHO CAN READ EBOOKS
-will end 3/31
-must be 13+, one main entry per person, winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
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