Things go pretty well the first week. On Friday evening, as he collects the weekly fees for the paper from his route, he meets two people who capture his attention. One is the very pretty, usually very intoxicated young Mrs. Worthingham and the other is the intelligent, understanding Mr. Spiro, a former Merchant Marine. Mr. Spiro, who immediately guesses about Little Man's stutter, gives him a quarter of a one dollar bill with a word written on it and tells him each week he will receive another quarter of the dollar with another word. Little Man is fascinates with this. The third person is a boy Little Man calls TVBoy because he is always staring at the television's picture but with no sound.
But when decides he needs his pocket knife sharpened so his can undo the bundles of papers he gets everyday to deliver, Little Man goes to Ara-T, a mean, nasty junkman who is known for how well he can sharpen knives. Somehow Mam finds out about this and tells him to stay away from Ara-T because he is trouble...and sure enough, he is. For one thing, he won't give Little Man his knife back.
Then Mam takes a few unprecedented days off and when she comes back, she is black and blue and badly bruised, but refuses to tell Little Man why.
But as events unfold, Little Man begins to suspect that Ara-T might be responsible for what happened to Mam. And that all leads to more danger for both Little Man and Mam.
Paperboy is a quiet, gentle, excellently written coming of age story. It is told from the point of view of Little Man who informs us right from the start:
"I'm typing about the stabbing for a good reason. I can't talk.And he writes his entire story without commas and quotations (Little Man will tell you why when you read his story and if you read to the end, you will also discover his name and why he doesn't use it until then).
Vawter's 1959 Memphis is spot on in creating the atmosphere of the Jim Crow south with all its racial tension by juxtaposing the world of well off whites with that of African Americans.
But what makes this such a poignant story is the 13 year old protagonists struggle with stuttering and reading about how he is forced to navigate the world because of it, rephrasing sentences so that easy sounds take precedence rather than the sounds that are difficult to say, people treating him like it is mentally deficient because of his stutter and even being picked on by other kids.
Vawter says that this is an autobiographical novel and if it is true that you should write what you know, it would explain the sense of reality in Little Man's story. This is definitely a story that will resonate in today's world, despite being a work of historical fiction, because being a child who has something that makes them difference from other child was and still is difficult. But Paperboy reminds us that victory, not revenge, is ultimately sweeter and can be had.
A word of warning: this book does contain some violence.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library.