Victor, the likable protagonist of the Newbery Honor book Paperboy (2013), has grown up a lot since first learning critical life lessons from ever-so-wise Mr. Spiro.
Now Mr. Spiro is gone, but he’s left 17-year-old Victor with one last enlightening mission: to scatter his ashes at the very mouth of the Mississippi River. That undertaking will involve a lengthy road trip (against Victor’s parents’ wishes) from Tennessee to the furthest reaches of Louisiana, a lot of self-determination, and a fair degree of hazard. The mouth of the Mississippi is a nebulous place, located far out in the river’s delta. A relationship with Philomene, an attractive, young Cajun woman who has dark eyes and a tan that “was not the swimming pool kind that disappeared a week after school started,” provides inexperienced, introverted Victor with much more than his first kiss as he picks up life lessons on a richly evoked, life-changing quest. Just as in his first outing, Victor’s first-person voice—enhanced by the teen’s love of language—is brilliantly authentic and heartfelt, especially with his ever challenging stutter. As he and Phil manage their encounter with both a nasty drug dealer and a menacing hurricane, Victor finally gains a full understanding of all that Mr. Spiro gave him. Even the dead man comes fully to life, joining a remarkable cast of meticulously nuanced characters. Victor is assumed white.
A lyrical and immersive journey. (Fiction. 12-18)