First Part Last

First Part Last

Bobby is sixteen years old, and he is trying to finish high school, have a life and raise his infant son. His family is supportive but refuses to do the job for him. How hard this job is. What a river of emotion Bobby feels about his baby, the baby's mother, Nia, and the situation he finds himself in. It's a struggle, and it's heartfelt.

Ages 13 and up 144 pages

*******

Bobby’s life as a teenager in NYC is forever altered with the birth of his daughter, Feather. In chapters that alternate between his life before fatherhood and his life after, Bobby relates his story from when he first learned his girlfriend was pregnant to the daily stress of being his infant daughter’s everything. He struggles with the demands of his daughter’s dependency and the feeling that he should still be a child himself. Without idealizing teenage parenthood, the sleep-deprived Bobby is both honest and hopeful, leaving optimism about his and Feather’s future.

Thanks to the structure, the plot keeps moving and unfolding as we learn the details of what happened to put Bobby in his current situation and how he is coping. The book avoids most stereotypes, as Bobby and those in his life are predominantly African-American in an inner city but are not struggling with poverty, drugs or violence. The relationship with his parents seems true-to-life but that with his two best friends seems superficial, as if they were added as an afterthought with nicknames that are unusual and not addressed. One of Bobby’s hobbies comes as a surprise, as there is no mention of it anywhere else in the book but seems like it would be a large part of his life before Feather. Johnson easily transports readers into situations and emotions, instead of settings, using powerful imagery and emotion with simple vocabulary and punctuation.

This was a quick and very enjoyable read. Bobby’s voice is true to his age and the situations are plausible. Bobby’s relationship with his girlfriend is sweet and the reasons for his mother’s tough love are understood. The expression of love and devotion for Feather and the joy that she brings Bobby is well-balanced by the realistic depiction of his life as a single teenage father, providing a warning instead of an idealization of parenting. Students of both genders with varying ranges of reading levels will enjoy it for the captivating storytelling, the accessibility with simple vocabulary and brevity, and the expression of strong emotions with very figurative language.

Johnson, Angela. First Part Last. New York: Simon, 2003.

Recommended by:  Anna Montgomery, Librarian USA

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