Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Have you ever not been able to express yourself? Do you have something to say, but just cannot find the right words to voice it? It happens to the best of us, but for an eleven year old boy, it happens every time he opens his mouth. He struggles with stuttering, to the point that he cannot say his own name, and everyday interactions and conversations with other people, even family, are wretchedly hard work. Armed with a mean pitching arm though, the boy agrees to take over the paper route for his best friend for the month of July, 1959 in segregated Memphis. Throwing papers is the perfect job for this young man, until collection day comes and he must communicate with customers - even the beautiful housewife who drinks too much. But friends can be found in the most unusual places at the most unexpected times - like the retired merchant marine that has more books than furniture crammed in his home. This kindly man seems to have all the answers to the boy's unending list of questions about life and becomes an anchor when life goes awry.
With only a few minor hitches, the boy works his paper route for three weeks, but a run-in with the local junk man, sets off a chain of events that put not only the boy in physical danger but his loyal and loving housekeeper in jeopardy as well. The boy's world spins apart, and he must find a way to pull it all back together. This is a coming of age story for middle grades, and deals with complex themes like race relations, loneliness, abuse, alcoholism, and more. Written in the hand of the boy, no quotations marks and limited punctuation are used throughout the book, however, this only adds to the reader's familiarity with the boy, whose name is not learned until the end of the story.
This book deservedly earned the Newbery Honor award for 2014. Slow in some spots, the action towards the end of this book made it difficult to put down. The boy is a great character with many realistic problems and viewpoints that are captured by the author's ability to put the reader completely in the mind of the boy.