Paperboy by Vince Vawter – Review by Stephanie Shouldis

In life, everyone has some kind of struggle.  Internal struggles are private issues, which others only know about if the individual chooses to share them.  External struggles are there for all the world to see, whether that person likes it or not.  An internal struggle that I deal with, daily, is my need to procrastinate.  This may not seem like a huge deal, but for me I worry about it to the point of adding more onto my procrastination pile.  Pretty soon, I am so swamped in backed-up work that I become a very unpleasant person to live with (just ask my husband who is currently out back playing with our kids).  I couldn’t imagine if, every time I spoke, people could see my procrastination pile and the menial tasks I completed (checking Facebook), rather than the more major tasks that I have put off (writing a post for Nerdy Book Club). I feel blessed that I do not deal with an external struggle on a daily basis.  I do not have a physical deformity, speech and language disorder, or any other plethora of external struggles,one may have.   However, one thing I remind myself of on a daily basis: no matter what your struggle, everyone’s stress is real.

For an eleven year old boy living in Memphis, TN, in 1959, having a stutter was an almost debilitating external struggle.  Paperboy by Vince Vawter describes the struggles, setbacks, and triumphs this boy faced one summer filling in as a paperboy for his best friend.  Throughout this story, the reader watches the main character live and learn from a daily, external, struggle of stuttering. Unbeknownst to him, almost everyone he encounters along his paper route has an internal struggle, which has a detrimental impact on the way they live their daily lives.  With guidance from a very patient mentor, this eleven year old boy is able to overcome many struggles and transform his life. He learns from not only his external struggle, but the hidden, internal struggles of the people he sees everyday.


Vince Vawter’s word choice allows the reader to feel the fear that the main character experiences when speaking to others.  I believe Vawter was able to achieve such powerful language because, as he states in his Author’s Notes, “Paperboy is my story, then, certainly more memoir than fiction.”  I fell in love with this beautiful, yet at times heart-wrenching, story before I read the Author’s Notes.  Knowing that the author lived this story and is currently an advocate for children and adults with stuttering, makes me love this story that much more.  I strongly believe this is a story that needs to be added to all middle grade historical fiction collections.

Stephanie Shouldis is a book-loving, middle school Intervention Specialist in Dublin, Ohio.  When she is not reading she can be found loving life, alongside her three children and husband.  You can find her online at and Twitter (@StephShouldis).