Aug 25, 2009

the first part last by Angela Johnson

the first part last by Angela Johnson

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.

One more down for the Printz Project. They never disappoint, do they? On a side note, thanks to the awesome Jodie I have Slam by Nick Hornby, another story about teen pregnancy told from a male perspective, on my tbr pile. I look forward to seeing how the two compare.

Other Opinions:
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Thoughts of Joy

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27 comments:

  1. You know, I was sitting here reading through this review, fretting about the fact that this was ANOTHER book to add to my tbr pile, and then you said "printz" and I realized - I already had it on my list. Whew! So nothing new added, but I'm glad you reviewed it because I knew nothing about it prior to this. It sounds wonderful!

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  2. Sounds like one worth reading. I need to read more Printz books.

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  3. Amanda: I'm glad not to have added to your pile after all :P

    Lenore, you should join the Project! There's no time limit, fortunately :P

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  4. I listened to this on audiobook (It's a well-done recording, BTW). I like how Bobby, in a typical teenage way, sometimes totally fails to live up to his responsibilities, but it's a much bigger deal when it's a baby rather than a school assignment that's at stake. I also liked the end. I didn't see it coming, but it felt right; in the way of that youthful ability to adapt that you mention.

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  5. I love it that there are books out there such as this that DO send a positive message of dealing the circumstances you are dealt. I mean, when I was 16, I couldn't find my own rear end, let alone take care of another human being. Way to go for giving this book the notice that it deserves!

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  6. This sounds like an important book because it shows a teenage boy taking on parental responsibility. I like that.

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  7. You're so totally right, the Printz books never do disappoint! I dont' have this one yet! Sounds fantastic though. Looks like it addresses the topic in a realistic way instead of the normal preachy tone you get in books like this...I'll get to it one of these days!

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  8. I would love to read books about teen pregnancy from a male perspective! Adding those two to the list!

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  9. I think I may need to look into the Printz books as they sound very good.

    That first paragraph was beautiful.

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  10. I'm glad you reviewed this one-I have it on my list, but I wasn't sure if it would be too sad. And I didn't know it wont the Printz!

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  11. d'awww

    It's nice to see something deviating away from the Lifetime-esque teen pregnancy stories!

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  12. I read this, too, but I haven't reviewed it yet.

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  13. Every single review I've read of this book is positive. It sounds like a worthwhile read!

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  14. Preachiness never works for stories like these. Good to see it is a told with a realistic approach including all the mistakes and including a father's view.

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  15. You know, I have never read a book about teen pregnancy told from the male's perspective, so this is sounds very intriguing. I am going to be taking a closer look at this book, and I'm really glad you enjoyed it. Great review! I am also glad it's not really a preachy book about the subject, because there are far too many of those already out there.

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  16. I've never read a book about teen pregnancy told from the male's perspective either. Sounds like a great book! And a bonus that it won the Printz Award.

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  17. I don't think I've ever read a book about teen pregnancy from a male's perspective. This sounds like a great read!

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  18. Oo, I have been wanting to read this for just years, and I forgot the title of it! We were supposed to read it in a college class, and then everyone voted to read something else (that was not very good at all). Yay! Thanks for the review. :)

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  19. I've been wanting to read this one. Love the Printz books...haven't really been disappointed yet!!

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  20. Ooohhh…love the concet and love the cover. I have read books on how a single teenage girl handles an unexpected preganancy but never a guy.

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  21. Alisa: I liked the ending a lot too. I heard that Bobby and Feather are mentioned in Johnson's novel Heaven. I'd love to read that.

    Sandy: I love it too! The book definitely doesn't make it sound easy, but it's full of hope.

    J.T. Oldfield: It was especially cool because it didn't read at all like A Book With A Point, you know?

    Chris: I really think you'll enjoy it! It really wasn't preachy in the least. Also, good news for people with insanely long tbrs: It's extremely short :P

    rhapsodyinbooks: Happy reading!

    Vivienne: Yes! You know you want to join the project :P

    Eva: The sad thing that happens is quite sad, but the overall tone of the book isn't.

    She: lol, it really is.

    Kailana: We keep reading the same books! I need to pay attention to your list of books read but not reviewed, so that the next time this happens we can review it together.

    Bermudaonion, it really was!

    booktumbling: It definitely doesn't. Angela Johnson did a great job staying away from it.

    Zibilee, agreed!

    Melody: Can't go wrong with the Printz!

    Kim: This was probably my first too.

    Jenny: It's too bad you didn't get to read it in class! I hope you enjoy it.

    Staci: Me neither!

    Violet: The cover is very sweet, isn't it?

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  22. I'm really interested to see how it compares to 'Slam' as well. Are the guys backgrounds similar (the main character from 'Slam' is from a council estate, but he and his mum aren't poverty stricken)?

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  23. The first part last was actually a pretty good book at one point I wished it was longer but now thinking about it I believe Angela left it at a good point. Now i'm really interested in reading Slam

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  24. Another new-to-me author and I think I'll have to read this. Thanks for introducing great books like this, Ana!

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  25. Jodie: In this case, the impression I got was that the family was upper middle-class. Not exactly rich, but quite comfortable.

    Jeri: I know what you mean. She did a great job saying a lot in only a little over a hundred pages.

    Alice: This is only by second time reading her, but I suspect I love Angela Johnson. I hope you will too!

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  26. I am making my way through all 100+ links. I read and loved this. I've also read Heaven. It is written for a younger audience and I enjoyed seeing Bobbi and Feather. Thanks for the review.

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  27. The book was alright I didn’t really like it because the “then “chapters built the readers emotions up on Nia but the end says how she had brain death. Me personally felt emotionally torn when reading about what happen to Nia. I believed that the ending of the book left some possibilities, but who knows. Now this book seems great to do a second story about how Nia somehow recovers from brain death and be a mother to her child. But only Angela Johnson is to make that decision.

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