The First Part
Johnson, Angela. 2003. The First Part Last. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0689849222.
Winner of the 2004
Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and the 2004 Coretta Scott Kind Award.
Johnson has wowed
the readers once again. The First Part
Last is the story of Bobby, an African-American boy, who finds out that his girlfriend, Nia, is pregnant on his sixteen
birthday. “I’ll never forget that look and how her voice shook when she said, ‘Bobby, I’ve got something
to tell you.’ Then she handed me the balloon.” The time limit
on getting an abortion has expired and they decide to put the baby up for adoption.
Once the baby is born, Nia goes into an irreversible coma; leaving Bobby with the final decision to give the baby up
for adoption. He makes the biggest decision of his life and keeps the baby and
names her Feather.
The story of Bobby,
Nia and Feather takes place in New York City, a city that never rest. The city plays a major role
in the struggles of everyday life for Bobby. In the beginning, he recalls that
his mom did not sleep. “She was up too, listening to the city.” He
also has to prepare the diaper bag for a visit with Grandpa: “eight extra diapers, non-aspirin baby drops, tow rattles,
two cans of soy formula, two bottle of spring water, and one cell phone.” The
takes Feather on the subway in order to travel to Bed Stuy for the visit. Bobby
also makes several subways to get to the babysitters. If subways were not a way
of transportation for Bobby, then I think a lot of people would not accept the story.
One of the most
remarkable things about The First Part Last is the well developed characters. You
enjoy the good times and your heart will skip a beat as Bobby and Nia go through the decisions of planning on giving the baby
up for adoption, Nia going into coma, Bobby giving up his life as he knows it in order to be a single-father to Feather, and
getting busted. Bobby works on giving his daughter the only thing he can
– love and kindly talks to Nia, in her coma state because of eclampsia, about Feather. “Another nurse came in
and cleared her breathing tube. But it didn’t matter what was going on,
baby; I kept telling her about you. Damn right, I kept telling her about you.”
Johnson has written
the book mostly from Bobby’s point of view. There is one section (less
than two pages) titled ‘Nia’ that is written from her point of view and talks mainly about what she wanted to
be when she grew up. Otherwise, the book is written in a ‘Now’ and
‘Then’ perspective. The ‘Now’ strictly talks about the present and what Bobby and Feather do; and
the ‘Then’ is more of a flashback of Bobby growing up until the day that Feather was born. This style reminds my of a book title Flipped, by Wendelin Van
Draanen. If you have not read a book that contains a lot of flashbacks, in this
fashion, then you may have a hard time getting used to it.
language and keen insight, Johnson looks at the make side of teen pregnancy as she delves into one young man’s struggle
to figure our what ‘the right thing’ is and then to do it. No matter what the cost.” (Book Jacket). Usually teen-pregnancy stories are written from the female perspective. What an intriguing story from the single teen-aged father’s point of view. Everyone in high school should be required to read this, in hopes that they would not end up like this.