At first glance, Victor Vollmer the Third—the main dude in Vince Vawter's 2013 novel, Paperboy—has it all. He has two loving parents, a best friend with the excellent nickname of Rat, a killer throwing arm in baseball, and school's out for summer. Ah… bliss.
But not so fast. See, Victor has a problem. Specifically, he has a serious stutter. It makes him super self-conscious (we're talking puke-at-the-table-in-a-restaurant levels of self-consciousness), but since he's taking over Rat's paper route for a month, it's officially time to stare his stutter down and see what he's truly made of.
It's a classic coming of age tale in this respect—but Vawter doesn't stop there. He also provides readers with a slice of life from Memphis in the late 1950s. The world Paperboy is set in is quiet and suburban on the surface, but rife with segregation and racial tensions when you dig a little deeper. The book shows how Victor deals with these hard changing times as he grows up, as well as how he develops a clear voice and strong opinions for himself.
In other words, Paperboy offers up double slices of life: We both get to know Victor and his journey toward self-acceptance, as well as hang out in the South in a tumultuous time.
We all have the little quirks and issues that make us feel self-conscious and different from our peers, so it's always relevant to read about a character—like Victor in Paperboy—who is trying to be comfortable in his own skin while overcoming something that draws a lot of attention to him, in this case, his stuttering.
Victor thinks he'll never be known for anything but his stuttering when the story opens; he even throws up at a restaurant because it makes him so nervous and ashamed to mess up the words in his order. But over the course of the summer, he learns that stuttering doesn't define him. He's a lot of other things, too—a great baseball player, a good son, a hardworking paperboy, and a seeker of knowledge.
He also finds that other people are dealing with their own issues that set them apart, and sometimes they're more serious than his problem. Mam has to deal with mistreatment because of the color of her skin, TV Boy is deaf and cannot communicate with the people around him, and Mrs. Worthington is stuck in a loveless marriage and has a drinking problem. Seeing all of these complicated lives makes Victor realize that stuttering isn't that bad after all.
So for those of you who are feeling self-conscious and alone, know that what sets you apart doesn't have to define you. As Victor figures out in Paperboy, we are all different and dealing with our own demons—and that's okay. So long as we focus on growing and learning about the world around us, nothing will keep us down for too long.
Extra, Extra, Read All About It!
You can read all the news (and more) about Paperboy and Vince Vawter by heading on over to his official website.
The Written Word
Just as obsessed with the written word and books as Mr. Spiro is? Then pick up your very own copy of Paperboy.
The Real Story
A lot of Paperboy is based off on Vawter's real childhood growing up—especially the character of Mam. Apparently he grew up with someone similar in his home and loved her dearly.
Vawter loves the fact that so many stutterers identify with his story and can find solace in it. He's even taken the opportunity to video chat with some of his stuttering readers. How awesome is that?
Back to the Future
Mr. Spiro wasn't someone that Vawter knew in real life as a kid… he's actually based on Vawter's current self. Since Victor is based on Vince as a kid, think of Mr. Spiro as Adult Vince speaking with Kid Vince. Whoa.
A Sneak Peek
Want to know what Paperboy is all about? You can get a sense of the story through this book trailer.
If you want to really savor the Southern flavor of Paperboy, just listen to Vawter reading the first chapter of his book.
If you have six hours to spare, you can listen to Paperboy as an audio book and get lost in Victor's telling of his story.
Setting the Scene
The cover of Paperboy definitely sets the scene for the novel, showing readers a picture of Victor as he goes on the paper route that will change his life.
Victor isn't the only one with an appreciation for typewriters. When Vince Vawter was just a kid, he had a fondness for those clunky machines, too.
Meet and Greet
Vawter smiles from his writing desk, which came from his childhood home in Memphis (which is where Paperboy is set, of course).