Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First Part Last: From A Teen Father's Point-of-View

First Part Last
Angela Johnson
Simon Pulse
Reviewer: Ana

But I figure if the world were really tight, humans would live life backwards and do the first part last. They’d be all knowing in the beginning and innocent in the end. Then everybody could end their life on their momma or daddy’s stomach in a warm room, waiting for the soft morning light.

Bobby, aged sixteen, is a father. His sixteenth birthday was the day when his girlfriend Nia told him that she was pregnant. Now, for reasons the reader finds out as s/he read on, Nia is not around, and Bobby has to coordinate being a high school student with changing diapers, sleepless nights, arranging for babysitters, taking baby Feather to the doctor, and all the other demands of parenthood. Not to mention, of course, growing up himself.

The story is told through alternating sections, titled “now” and “then”. As we watch Bobby coming to terms with parenthood and all the ways in which his life has changed forever, we also watch the story of Nia’s pregnancy unfold, and we learn just what led to the situation Bobby’s currently in.

I love the fact that even though the first part last is about teen pregnancy, it doesn’t read like a cautionary tale: it doesn't moralize, it’s never emotionally manipulative and it doesn’t demonize sex. But it doesn’t romanticize parenthood either. What it does is show what can happen to teenagers for several reasons, what does happen to countless teens everywhere. The story is told wisely and compassionately, without pointing fingers or punishing the characters.

And it’s a sad story, yes, but it’s also a story about endurance and love. I mean, the bad things that happen are really bad (and I can’t tell you what those are without spoilers), and the good ones are mixed blessings. But people, young people in particular, have a remarkable ability to adapt and make the most of their circumstances.

Making the most of his circumstances is what Bobby learns to do, and in the end readers are not left thinking that his life is ruined, or that Feather will be an unhappy child. He loves her, he has parents and friends who support him, and even though his life will be different from most young people’s, it won’t necessarily be less satisfying or complete.
Ana is a twenty-something reader, recent graduate and future librarian from Portugal. Read more of Ana's reviews at things mean a lot.


Tarie said...

Nymeth!!! *hug*

Thank you for this excellent review. The First Part Last sounds BEAUTIFUL.

Tea said...

Thank you for the review. I loved this book.

Nymeth said...

Tarie! *hugs back* I think you'd really enjoy it.

Tea, you're most welcome!

The Prisoner's Wife said...

i've been eyeing this book for a while to add to my classroom library. i think i'll go ahead & buy a few copies for the Fall.

thanks for the great review!

Tea said...

"The Prisoner's Wife" is a wonderful, wonderful book. I read it a while ago. Great book.