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