Post #6: The First Part Last

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

Post number six is for Angela Johnson's The First Part Last, another required reading assignment. This book, like Bucking the Sarge, featured African-American main characters, and dealt with inner-city conflicts of some sort (sort of).

Brief spoilers follow.









This book was a bit different from others I'd read, because the author alternated chapters by showing something that was happening "now" and something that happened "then". So the story was a bit disjointed in how it was told, but it helped the story sort of hit home a bit more, and helped tug even harder at your heartstrings. The book – like the last three I've read for this course – was also told in first person pov, which I think was done because you needed to become sympathetic toward the main character immediately, and the easiest way to do that is to put you inside that character's head.

The main character (and narrator) is Bobby, a sixteen-year-old African-American male growing up in New York City. He lives with his mother (his parents are divorced) who is a photographer, so you can tell straight away that this family is pretty well-off financially (there's also NO mention of money whatsoever during the narrative, which also tells you that it's not even a blip on Bobby's radar; he has it and all is well). Bobby's girlfriend, Nia, comes to him on his sixteenth birthday and tells him that she's pregnant. And that's basically what this is about: the "now" segments show Bobby trying to cope with being a teenage father to a little girl named Feather, and the "then" segments show what it was like for Bobby while Nia was pregnant.

MORE SPOILERY THINGS NOW: Nia and Bobby initially decide to give the baby up for adoption, but something happens and Nia goes into labor and suffers from eclampsia. She goes into a coma and suffers brain damage (she'll never "walk, talk or smile again"), so Bobby decides not to give the baby up for adoption after all.

You get a really good glimpse of what it's like for a young father to have to cope with a sudden pregnancy, and you also get to see what life is like for this same young parent when he decides to keep the baby. This is one of the only books I've read where teen pregnancy is looked at from the male perspective, but it's not something I personally would see a boy picking up to read, which is a shame. It might at least help remind teens that precautions need to be taken (because assuming they'll practice abstinence is just ridiculous).

Currently reading: A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot

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