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The First Part Last Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 2005

Book 2 of 3 in the Heaven Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up-Brief, poetic, and absolutely riveting, this gem of a novel tells the story of a young father struggling to raise an infant. Bobby, 16, is a sensitive and intelligent narrator. His parents are supportive but refuse to take over the child-care duties, so he struggles to balance parenting, school, and friends who don't comprehend his new role. Alternate chapters go back to the story of Bobby's relationship with his girlfriend Nia and how parents and friends reacted to the news of her pregnancy. Bobby's parents are well-developed characters, Nia's upper-class family somewhat less so. Flashbacks lead to the revelation in the final chapters that Nia is in an irreversible coma caused by eclampsia. This twist, which explains why Bobby is raising Feather on his own against the advice of both families, seems melodramatic. So does a chapter in which Bobby snaps from the pressure and spends an entire day spray painting a picture on a brick wall, only to be arrested for vandalism. However, any flaws in the plot are overshadowed by the beautiful writing. Scenes in which Bobby expresses his love for his daughter are breathtaking. Teens who enjoyed Margaret Bechard's Hanging on to Max (Millbrook, 2002) will love this book, too, despite very different conclusions. The attractive cover photo of a young black man cradling an infant will attract readers.
Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-12. Bobby, the teenage artist and single-parent dad in Johnson's Coretta Scott King Award winner, Heaven (1998), tells his story here. At 16, he's scared to be raising his baby, Feather, but he's totally devoted to caring for her, even as she keeps him up all night, and he knows that his college plans are on hold. In short chapters alternating between "now" and "then," he talks about the baby that now fills his life, and he remembers the pregnancy of his beloved girlfriend, Nia. Yes, the teens' parents were right. The couple should have used birth control; adoption could have meant freedom. But when Nia suffers irreversible postpartum brain damage, Bobby takes their newborn baby home. There's no romanticizing. The exhaustion is real, and Bobby gets in trouble with the police and nearly messes up everything. But from the first page, readers feel the physical reality of Bobby's new world: what it's like to hold Feather on his stomach, smell her skin, touch her clenched fists, feel her shiver, and kiss the top of her curly head. Johnson makes poetry with the simplest words in short, spare sentences that teens will read again and again. The great cover photo shows the strong African American teen holding his tiny baby in his arms. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689849230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689849237
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Angela Johnson is the author of the Coretta Scott King Honor picture book When I Am Old with You; as well as A Sweet Smell of Roses, illustrated by Eric Velasquez; Just Like Josh Gibson, illustrated by Beth Peck; and I Dream of Trains, which was also illustrated by Loren Long. She has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels Heaven, Toning the Sweep, and The First Part Last. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio.

Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this book to middle school children.
Robert M. Foote
This book shows how much responsibility a child can be; especially if you have one at such at young age.
This was a great teen novel about teenage pregnancy from the perspective of the father to be.
T. Sullivan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Cydney Rax on July 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The First Part Last is the story of teenager Bobby Morris, a guy who likes to hang out with his friends K-Boy and J. L.; they're typical boys who want to shoot hoops, buy a slice of pizza in a New York City neighborhood, or play with a Game Boy. But things are never the same when Bobby gets Nia pregnant; she's flipping out about this baby developing inside her belly, and Bobby is learning all too fast what it takes to be a daddy and a man.
Bobby narrates the story, explaining all the feelings he has for his new baby daughter called Feather. It seems everything he does these days must be done in consideration of his daughter. Bobby and Feather are irrevocably tied together and Bobby is trying his best to cope with the joys and challenges of his new role.
The First Part Last may serve as a realistic wake-up call for teenagers who are experimenting with sex and who think pregnancy, motherhood, or fatherhood cannot happen to them. The book describes a lot of what being a parent entails and teens may think twice about what they'd want for their own future; being tied to a baby, or maybe having better alternatives about the direction for their lives.
One thing missing from the book is intensity. The narrator's voice is mild throughout the story so you never feel like anything explosive is about to happen. But maybe that is the writer's intent - that the reality of parenthood is explosive enough. The First Part Last is a brief and important book for teens to check out, and perhaps their parents too.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jarrod T Thompson VINE VOICE on March 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bobby describes "Just Frank", a man from his neighborhood who always asks when Bobby is going to be a man, as a joke. When "Just Frank" dies saving a young girl, Bobby begins to respect "Just Frank" and understand what it would take for him to be a responsible young father.
Bobby quickly learns that parenting is not an easy job. Angela Johnson gives a clear and accurate description of how totally exhausted new parents get. Bobby is on his own with no one making his experience easier for him.
Bobby is by no means perfect, but he grows as his experiences as a new father change and change him every day.
There is nothing false in this book. Bobby's life is not an easy one, and at times he wants to run away from the stress his situation is causing him.
All in all, Bobby unselfishly makes choices to do what is right for the baby. At times, he does consider just running away from it all, as all new parents do.
This book is worthy of its accolades and I can't say enough good things about it. Read this book and suggest it to others. Anyone can enjoy this truthful look at the ability of one small baby to completely change your life, your goals, your perspectives, and your sleep schedule.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could live our lives backward and experience the first part last? I think it would.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By ByrnesQt4U06 on May 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The story starts out with a teenage boy celebrating his sixteenth birthday with his friends. As he returns home to enjoy cake and ice cream with his girlfriend, Nia, he finds her sitting on his front porch with a balloon. As he approaches her she looks like she is in her own world. Then she looks up at him and says "Bobby, I've got something to tell you." That is when he finds he is going to be a father. He doesn't know how to react or what to say. They then decided to tell their parents together. They are all shocked at the news they are hearing. Their parents send them to a social worker so they can find out their options and what would be best for them to do. They decided the best thing to do was give the baby up for adoption. As the months passed Bobby still hangs out with his friends, but sends as much time with Nia as possible. Then one day he gets a call saying to meet his parents at the hospital; something happened to Nia. So he rushes to the hospital, and finds that Nia has become sick. She still has a healthy baby girl which they named Feather. When Feather was born Bobby's neighbor, "Just Frank", died saving a young girl, and it wasn't until then that he started to respect "Just Frank" and his comments about becoming a man. Since Nia became sick, and would have to stay in a nursing home, Bobby decided to keep Feather because she reminded everyone of her mother. As the book then progresses, Bobby learns responsibility quickly, because while living with his mother, his mother would not help him take care of Feather, she would only hug and kiss her while Bobby was not watching. Then he goes to live with his dad, and he sees a major change because his dad is very helpful.Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on July 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
We've all read plenty of stories about teen moms. In most of these tales, the moms are raising their babies by themselves because the dads are irresponsible, uninvolved, or just plain absent. Aren't there any good teenage dads out there?

In THE FIRST PART LAST, the story of a teen father's growing love for his baby daughter, Angela Johnson turns the tables as she revisits a character from her award-winning novel, HEAVEN. Bobby is an ambitious young man. An aspiring artist with talented parents, he is poised to graduate early from high school. But when his girlfriend Nia surprises him on his sixteenth birthday with the news of her pregnancy, Bobby's whole world turns upside down.

This brief novel alternates chapters between "then" and "now." The "then" is the story of Nia's pregnancy, as Bobby and Nia struggle to decide whether to raise their child or cave to parental pressure and give her up for adoption. The "now" is Bobby's own struggle to do the right thing for his infant daughter Feather, as a tragedy surrounding her birth has left him to care for her alone. Bobby is lucky to have a good support system, including his mother and father, his buddies, and his caring older brother. All along, Bobby's voice, which narrates the story, wavers between great love for his daughter and panic at his situation, but the emotional heart of the story never falters.

In the end, the portrayal of Bobby's relationship with his daughter is a positive one, although some critical readers might get the impression that Johnson is providing the wrong kind of role model. Not to worry.
Read more ›
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