Book Review: The First Part Last

The First Part Last

Angela Johnson

Simon and Schuster

144 pages

For the past year, I have been intrigued by books dealing with teenage pregnancy from the father’s viewpoint.  I guess it’s just because teen pregnancy is so rampant and yet it seems like the boy’s reaction is rarely voiced.  Maybe because a lot of times the girl is on her own.  Either way, I have made it a point to read books that tell the father’s story.  The First Part Last is one of those books.

Bobby is your typical teenage boy growing up in an urban setting.  He spends his time doing your normal, teenage boy stuff: hanging out with friends, shooting hoops, etc.  Or at least that is what he has done until Feather came along.  Feather is still a tiny baby, and Bobby is on his own when it comes to raising her.  He has support from both his mother and father, who are divorced but with whom he lives with, back and forth.  Bobby’s parents are not interested in raising another child though, so Feather’s rearing is left solely up to Bobby.
The sun rises and sets on Feather.  Bobby loves her with a hopeless abandon, despite the fact that caring for a newborn is taking its toll on him. Bobby is a very resilient guy, but obviously the task of caring for a baby gets to him, and he is constantly stressed out.

Nia, the baby’s mother, is nowhere around.  This fact is obvious from the start of the book, but the reason is kept hidden until the end.  There are so many scenarious that could have taken place, especially considering Nia and Bobby had planned to give Feather up for adoption.  Did Nia move away?  Is she just refusing to be a part of Feather’s life?  Did something tragic happen?  Regardless of what happened, the bottom line is she’s not there, leaving Bobby in a more dire and solitary situation.

The First Part Last is practically a novella, given its size.  It would be easily read in one sitting.  Despite being small though, it packs a serious punch.  It’s impossible not to feel awful for Bobby’s plight.  No matter what happened to Nia, the end result is still the same—this teenage boy is raising a kid solely on his own.

For all intents and purposes, I wasn’t a big fan of this book.  The plot was strong, in theory, but Johnson’s writing style did nothing for me.  It was too flowy and poetic and for me, that just didn’t fit with the storyline.  It started to aggravate me because I thought the fluidity of the story really suffered for it.  Not to mention, and I know this is a really stupid reason not to like the book, but I could not wrap my head around the name Feather.  It irritated me to no end.  In fact, when I picked it up and read the first page, I considered putting the book down altogether, thinking that I couldn’t take it seriously.  I figured I should give it a chance, plus it was short, so it would be over quickly.

I don’t mean to dissuade anyone from reading The First Part Last, because I don’t think it’s a bad book, just more of a case of the wrong reader.  It won the Michal L Printz award for YA literature, so obviously it is a well received book.  Just not my cup of tea.

Other Reviews:

The Little Reader

The Zen Leaf

The Bluestocking Society

I borrowed this book from my local library.


6 Responses

  1. Sorry you didn’t like it! The writing didn’t bother me at all, but I read it so quick that now, a few months later, I barely remember the book. I hate when that happens.

  2. Sounds like an interesting premise. I haven’t read any books written from the perspective of teenage dads.

  3. Isn’t it strange how you can latch onto something in the text – like a name – and then remain fixated on it throughout the book?

  4. I’m generally not a fan of that kind of prose, so this may not be the book for me. Thanks for your review.

  5. Father involvement is huge in social services right now, so it’s good to see books with this theme. Too bad the style doesn’t work for you, though.

  6. This is one that’s sort of been on my TBR due to the unique storyline (a teenage dad raises his child solo). It’ll stay on my TBR, but I won’t rush to get to it. Thanks for the honest review!

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