Victor is an 11-year-old boy with two traits that make him stand out:
1. He's got a fantastic pitching arm.
2. He stutters.
It’s 1959 in Memphis. Kids and adults alike admire Victor’s ability on the baseball field. But Victor keeps most people at arm’s length because of his disability. It’s just so hard to communicate that often he doesn’t even try.
When Victor takes over his friend Rat’s paper route temporarily, he knows it will mean extra money in his pocket. But it will also mean being forced to talk to strangers, especially when he has to collect the fees. Victor expects the challenge, but he doesn’t expect the profound ways his clients will move him.
Victor is consistently shocked, for example, by the boy at one house who is constantly in front of the TV with the sound turned off. The boy never seems to play outside, only watches TV.
He is also enamoured with Mrs. Worthington, an attractive but sad woman, whom he meets along the way.
But his most meaningful relationship is formed with Mr. Spiro, a former merchant marine, who never interrupts Victor or suggests that his stutter is problematic. In fact, Mr. Spiro is the only person he’s met who mentions the stutter at all, telling Victor to focus on things he likes so that the stutter can gradually fade away.
Victor is also very close with Mam, the woman who cooks and cleans for his family, and who practically raises him herself. When Victor runs afoul of a dangerous man in the neighbourhood, it’s Mam who sets things right.
Paperboy is a coming of age story about a boy discovering his own strengths and learning that others have weaknesses too. Over the course of the summer, Victor learns that having a disability won’t stop him from growing into a very capable adult.