Sunday, May 3, 2009

The First Part Last

Johnson, Angela. 2003. THE FIRST PART LAST. New York: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. ISBN 0689849222

THE FIRST PART LAST is the journey of a couple who are both sixteen years old and discovers they are pregnant. Bobby is the narrator of the book and is like any other New York teen wanting to hang out with his friends, eat pizza, and spend time with his girlfriend. This shocking news makes Bobby and his girlfriend, Nia, face some hard decisions which will change their lives forever.

As I began to read this novel I was slightly confused by the chapters because each chapter alternates from being told in the present then to the past. So at the beginning it is hard to keep track of the characters and story but by the time I was to the last five chapters I saw the incredible vision of the author when laying out the novel. This is the most obvious difference in Angela Johnson’s writing compared to other authors of this genre. Johnson also has a way with words when explaining what the character is thinking, “If we give up our baby up, we could get on with it. Go to college. Go on spring break. Go to parties. Come home on breaks with dirty laundry like my brothers did, and eat everything in the cabinets and fridge.”

The main character Bobby could not exemplify a more modern day teenager that young adult readers could relate to. As the readers reads the chapters from the past Bobby is immature and is unsure about himself and the decisions he has to make. Once the baby is born he gains self confidence in himself and his ability to be a father. The other character that makes this book is the baby, Feather. She came into this world when her parents were still not decided what they were going to do with her and then eventually helped her father become a man. Nia, the girlfriend and mom, is not talked about extensively throughout the story until late in the book.

I had mixed feelings about this book because it was somewhat hard to follow with the past and present going on at the same time. I also struggled with relating to the characters but at the same time I could understand the decision that they were going to make. It was not until the last 30 pages when the story unfolded that I truly understood the characters and the story plot. When I finished the book I have a sense of peace knowing that Bobby was going to make it work with Feather and there were reasons above Nia that was keeping her away. “I can tell you how it feels sitting in the window with Feather pointing out the creek that rolls past our backyard.”

*Children’s Literature- “The entire novel attempts to teach about life, growth, and maturity. Johnson does a good job of showing the impact that having a child can have on life.”
*School Library Journal- “Told in alternating passages of "Now" and "Then," the back-story that has brought Bobby to this point falls steadily but deliberately into place, with the revelation of why Bobby is a single father arriving only near the very end. In spite of its brevity, the story is complex and satisfying.”
*Kirkus Reviews- “It's the tale of one young man and his choices, which many young readers will appreciate and enjoy.”
*Winner of the 2004 Coretta Scott King Award
*Winner of the 2004 Michael L. Printz Award

*Read other novels by Angela Johnson:
-HEAVEN. ISBN 9780689822902
-ONE OF THREE. ISBN 9780531070611
-THE ROLLING STORE. ISBN 9780531300152
*Students write a response to the novel.
*Conduct an author study on Angela Johnson: where she is from, how did she get into writing, and what awards have her books won.

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