I was hoping Paperboy by Vince Vawter would be in Newbery contender when I first saw the book and ordered it for my library. And I gave it four stars on Goodreads because I liked it. But I didn’t love it. I think too much is packed into a little book and not enough gets fleshed out.
The plot is built around a boy who stutters and who is taking over his friend’s paper route for the month of July. Along the way, he meets many people who help him grow – Mr. Spiro, who treats him as an equal; Mrs. Worthington, a beautiful lush; TV boy, who spends hours glued to the television set, among others. But the conflict in the book is confusing: Is it his stuttering? Is it what happens with his knife? Is it his relationship to his parents? It's just not clear. Additionally, kids aren't going to get that his mom is poorly educated but married well. And kids may not understand his discovery of being illegitimate. What kids will see instead that his mom doesn’t pay that much attention to him, he’s primarily raised by his nanny, and his dad seems like a good guy.
There's also the problem that this book is set in 1959, but I that’s not clear at all. Yes, there’s a distinct lack of electronic technology and many mentions of baseball players, but unless you know when Ryne Duren played (I don’t), you might know what year it is. There are one or two sentences at the end about desegregation, but they seem kind of tacked on.
Yet, despite all of that, I did like the book. Go figure. The paperboy (who doesn’t reveal his own name until the end of the book) is a likable kid and readers will appreciate his story.