Vawter, Vince. 2013. PAPERBOY. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. ISBN 9780385742443 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]
The narrator of this historical novel has a stutter, one severe enough to affect many of his social interactions, including the ability to say his name.
The narrator, an 11 year old in 1959 Memphis, covers a paper route as his friend goes on vacation. He dreads any interaction with those on his route. Outside of talking with his African American nanny, his comments are short and well planned. Every word out of his mouth to anyone else comes with the worry that the word will not escape. He has many tricks to force the words out, such as yelling or throwing a baseball, but despite this his is able to meet people and form relationships that transform his self-image.
Near the beginning of the novel, the narrator explains the lack of commas in his writing. He feels as though he pauses enough when he talks, that he wishes to avoid all pauses when he writes.
The narration is succinct and provides much insight into the thoughts and motivations of someone struggling with an often overlooked disability. Vawter himself has struggled with a stutter for much of his life, and his ability to express that struggle through Paperboy is commendable.
Historical fiction has the great ability to allow readers to feel empathy for individuals who lived through historic events. Paperboy also has the added benefit of providing empathy for those who experience a stutter or other speech impediment. It would be interesting for students to discuss how his stutter affects not only his character but the story in its entirety.
Historical fiction novels which include characters with various disabilities
Al Capone Does My Shirt by Jennifer Choldenko
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Dovey Coe by Frances O’Roark Dowell
By Emily Bredberg