Review of The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

Review of The First Part Last by Angela JohnsonThe First Part Last by Angela Johnson
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2010-05-11
Genres: Adolescence, Family, Pregnancy, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 144
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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five-stars

Bobby's a classic urban teenager. He's restless. He's impulsive. But the thing that makes him different is this: He's going to be a father. His girlfriend, Nia, is pregnant, and their lives are about to change forever. Instead of spending time with friends, they'll be spending time with doctors, and next, diapers. They have options: keeping the baby, adoption. They want to do the right thing. If only it was clear what the right thing was.

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson is a rather short, quick read, which made it a perfect Readathon book. I had picked this book up because of a guest post by a blogger, I forget who – curse you memory, curse you – on the books of Angela Johnson. Let me just say I have no regrets about picking this up.

The First Part Last centers around teen parenthood. I know, groan, an issue, groan groan. However, The First Part Last never felt preachy. I never felt the message was don’t have sex you will get pregnant and you will die. I like that. Thank you Angela Johnson for not preaching at me. What made this book unique, besides the fact that it features characters of color, was that instead of fixating on the experience of the pregnant teen girl, it focused on the father. I think pregnancy is gross, so I’m glad I didn’t have to read about morning sickness. Yes, I know I will probably take some heat for that, but I just have no interest in making babies for the sake of making babies. I think it’s great that people get pregnant and have kids, but I just don’t care to read about it. Just not at that stage in my life yet. So anyways there’s no placenta floating in this book, thank god.

I thought The First Part Last by Angela Johnson was beautifully written. Moments had me laughing, tearing up, and just loving the ride. Bobby, the main character does some very stupid things which had me wanting to yell at him, but then I thought, hey wait April, teens do dumb things, you still do dumb things, don’t yell at a fictional character, girrrl.  This book absolutely packed a punch. I loved the wide range of emotions Johnson wrote. One thing which I did hate was how short the book was, I wanted more.

I’ll be honest and say I’ve never really considered what it would be like for a young African American male to have a child. Mind you this African American male was middle class and definitely not in a gang or doing drugs, which is often the story we hear when it comes to teens of color having children. It’s awesome that Johnson has the guts to go against the mainstream ‘story’ and say middle class PoC exist and they have problems too. I say the story, because I picture movies like Save The Last Dance, where Derek’s teen sister lives in poverty and has a son by a gang member. It’s like we’re conditioned to see this as normal. Speaking of that, let’s see more middle class PoC in movies, please. But, I digress. The challenges Bobby faces are insane. I’m not about to fall into the trouble comparison game, wherein I say, oh he’s a male so his troubles aren’t as huge as that of a pregnant female, because that game really just derails the conversation. (Someone awesome posted about derailing, if it’s you let me know so I can properly link you!) I mean, he is this brilliant kid with dreams of going to college, however he obviously holds a strong responsibility to his daughter, Feather, whom he has full custody of.

The beginning of The First Part Last kept me intrigued with questions. For example I wanted to know where exactly the mother was. I shouldn’t have worried, Johnson answered my questions and dropped hints as to what happened, eventually letting me in on the truth. I like that, I liked that she pulled me in with subtlety instead of smacking me over the head with the answer. I say this constantly, but it always bears repeating, books which trust the intelligence of the reader are my kind of book.

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson is not an easy read emotionally, but a book which I completely recommend whole-heartedly!

Other Reviews of The First Part Last by Angela Johnson:

The Happy Nappy Book Seller
Booking Through 365
Color Online
Things Mean A Lot

I read this as part of the POC Reading Challenge

five-stars
About April (Books&Wine)

April is 28 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. This sounds like a really good book, and while I don't have a problem reading about pregnancy, I really hate reading about morning sickness!

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  3. Sheila (Bookjourney) says:

    This sounds good. I havent heard of this one before but it sounds like a good one.

  4. B.A.M. Book Reviews says:

    Thanks for the great review. As soon as I'm done with this comment, I'll be putting this book on my wish list! 🙂

    -Briana

  5. Isn't this an excellent book? I also loved the writing, and the subtlety, and the non-preachiness.

    Also, you're not alone in not enjoying reading about the details of pregnancy 😛

    I wonder if the awesome derail post was by Renay? It sounds like the kind of thing she'd write.

  6. I really love books about pregnancy. I love babies and pregnancy and everything about it. I will be watching out for this. 😀

  7. MissAttitude says:

    I need to read this book! I've recommended it before and yet I haven't read it (I really hope when I finally do read it that it's well worth recommending, it sounds like it).

    Angela Johnson's books remind me of Jacqueline woodson in that they are really short books and it appears that they always leave you wanting more.

    And yes please more middle class POC in movies and literature! (for light chick lit w/ middle class try the YA series the Del Rio bay Clique by Paula Chase Hyman)

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