PaperboyZombies. Fallen angels. Superheroes. Girl robots. Apocalyptic scenes of fire and fury. These are pieces of books that I read and LOVE. So, it is pretty surprising that my new favorite, beloved, chosen, I-want-to-read-this-over-and-over-again book has none of those elements. In fact it’s a piece of historical fiction. Being a librarian, I usually look at the historical fiction books with pity and cry fat tears of sorrow. After all, these books teach us so much, but they will never be as fascinating as zombies using their own arms to brutally kill off mankind. Hold on: the aforementioned book—Paperboy—stands its ground. Paperboy can take on zombies, girl robots and even fallen man-angels with perfectly sculpted chests. And I daresay, Paperboy can win that fight.
The most endearing element of Paperboy is the setting. Memphis-1959. Need I say more? The Civil Rights Movement, the way people treated and mistreated each other, and the courage displayed in that time are completely fascinating. Add in a young boy with courage, integrity, and the ability to laugh at himself and you have the recipe for an amazing story.
So, on with an actual review. . . . the main character of Paperboy is a 12-year-old boy. You don’t actually get to know his name until the very end of the book. But he rocks. A lot. And by that I mean, he has this intense stutter; he can’t say his own name because the beginning sound causes him to break into a string of stuttering and that in turn makes him feel dumb. But nothing could be further from the truth. This boy is smart as a whip. He comes home from school every day and types on his type writer so he can remember his day and express his feelings. It’s from these writings that you can see how smart, witty, and observant he is. I expected him to have these monsterly, overbearing parents, but no—his parents are really supportive and have tried to get him help with his speech problem for years. His greatest champion is Mam, the African-American maid who has cared for him since he was a baby. Mam IS kindness. She is supportive and knows just what to say and when to push people and when to let go.
Dealing with a severe stutter is horror for this main character. He chooses his words carefully and has strategies for saying certain sounds. In short, he has figured out how to deal with his lot in life the best way he knows how. His world is rocked when he agrees to be a substitute paperboy for the summer. Throwing papers onto doorsteps? No problem. Going door to door to collect the paper money each Friday evening? Huge problem. He is worried about talking to (and stuttering to) people he has never met before. Like so many challenges in life, he faces this head-on and that’s when the plot really gets great. If you think you have strange people who live in your neighborhood, you can identify with this boy. He meets many different kinds of people. Some are nice, some are indifferent, and some are drunk—all the time.
I could rave (in a good way) about this book all day long. . . I know because I’ve actually done it. The plots are fantastic. The characters are inspiring. The time period feels real. I love this book and I think there is a chance other people might love it too. So take a couple of days and stop running from zombies and girl robots (even though we acknowledge that we love them and they are a staple in young adult literature) and read this book.