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Deidre's Book Reviews

The First Part Last
True Believer
The Tale of Despereaux
The Giver
The First Part Last
A Single Shard
How Angel Peterson Got His Name
SHAKA: King of the Zulus
The Gold Cadillac
Freedman's Voice that Challenged A Nation
Messages in the Mailbox
Seymour's Stars
Author Study: Joyce Carol Thomas
My Favorite Joyce Carol Thomas Books
Suggested Response Activity
Review of Thomas's Hush Songs
Review of Thomas's Gingerbread Days
Ride a Purple Pelican
My Momma Likes to Say
My Man Blue
Beast Feast
The Stinky Cheese Man
Once Upon A Time
My Friend Rabbit
Caring for Your Pets
Two Bad Ants

Johnson, Angela. 2003. THE FIRST PART LAST.  New York:

                 Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 0-689-84922-2.




Johnson’s The First Part Last tells the story of a sixteen-year-old father, Bobby, struggling to take care of his newborn daughter, Feather.  The teenage father is realizing that it is quite difficult to raise a child, go to school, and still keep up with his friends. 



It is interesting how the organization helps to form an understanding of the story’s theme, that our past mistakes can alter our present and future lives.   The organization takes the reader back and forth through Bobby’s life before, during, and after the pregnancy.   It starts off with the present, labeled as “Now” and moves to the “Then” and back to “Now.” 




Bobby flashbacks and tells about his childhood memories and admits to himself that he is too young to be a father.

Johnson leaves the reader in suspicion, until the ending, as to how Bobby ended up raising his baby as a single parent.




Although there are definitely some sad points, the story is very complex.  It clearly defines Bobby as a boy forced to live as a man.  The seriousness of becoming a teenage parent is described throughout the story.  Johnson uses a different approach to discuss teen pregnancies, rather than a traditional lecture.   



Instead of focusing on a teenage mother, the story is told from the teenage father’s view.  Labeled as contemporary realistic fiction, it reveals history through the eyes of the young protagonist, Bobby.  It is also considered didactic writing because it is intended to teach.  This is very important because it sends the message to teenage males that is extremely difficult to raise a child as a teenager.



Unlike some teenage fathers, Bobby does accept responsibility for his actions, even though the consequences are overwhelming. The author defines his character as afraid yet, responsible.  For example, Bobby says, “…I’m supposed to suck it up and do all the right things if I can, even if I screw it up and have to do it over.”



Another twist is how the story ends.  Most teenage stories end with happy endings.  Not this one!  The fact that the mother of the baby, Nina, is left in a vegetative state may cause the reader much sorrow. It appears that Johnson has turned the tables again, and reversed the situation. 




In many teenage pregnancy situations, the mother is left with the responsibility of caring for the child while the father may be absent or just not a lot of help.  Very rarely, is it that the mother is absent.  The story brings to life the reality that this could happen to any teenager having sex, both male and female.




The First Part Last is very easy to read and follow.  Although its plot is serious and deals with a popular topic for young readers, it is not too heavy that it will scare readers away from reading.  I believe that it will cause young readers to think more about their actions and how the outcome can affect the rest of their life. 





Last updated: April 3, 2005