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The First Part Last
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The First Part Last



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.



“With powerful 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.

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