THE FIRST PART LAST by Angela Johnson

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Only a year ago, Bobby lived a perfectly normal teenage life.  He hung out with his friends, did as little school work as he could get away with, and of course spent lots of time with his girlfriend, Nia.  But when Nia got pregnant, Bobby’s life changed forever.  Both his and Nia’s parents wanted to give the baby up for adoption, but Bobby couldn’t imagine letting go of his beautiful daughter, Feather.  Bobby decides to raise Feather on his own, even though the pressures of parental responsibility, when added to his existing family and school responsibilities, seem almost too difficult to conquer.

It is difficult for me to discuss my opinions about First Part Last without spoiling the ending, but I will reveal as little as I can.  First, let me say that there are elements of this book that I love.  The perspective of a teen father is so rarely voiced, and the love and responsibility that Bobby feels for his infant daughter in conflict with his own immaturity and need to be a kid himself make him an incredibly realistic and sympathetic character.  But the ending did sour the book for me.   Throughout the novel, the reader is aware that Feather’s mother has been absent from the story since Feather’s birth—only present in Bobby’s memories of the past.  When Johnson reveals what happened to Nia, it is surprisingly dramatic.  That single plot point overwhelmed the earlier, less tragic and dramatic elements of the story and detracted from the impact of the novel for me.   I would still recommend this book to teens who enjoy realistic fiction, and I understand why Angela Johnson was honored with a Coretta Scott King Award for the wonderful protagonist, Bobby.  But it is not my favorite of her books.

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