Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The First Part Last

Johnson, Angela (Author)
Simon & Schuster 2010. 132 pages
First published: 2003
ISBN: 9781442403437 (paperback)
9780689849220 (hardcover)
9781439106587 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

characterization, dialogue, point of view, setting

Awards

Michael L. Printz Award – 2004
Coretta Scott King Book Award – 2004

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

When teenagers Bobby and Nia discover that Nia is pregnant, the logical solution, suggested and endorsed by the grown-ups involved, is to give the baby up for adoption. Bobby is present and supportive throughout the pregnancy but, due to unforeseen circumstances, Bobby decides to raise his daughter by himself. His parents support him, but he must still navigate the trials of early parenthood by himself: dropping Feather off at daycare before going to class, panicking when she gets sick, getting up multiple times at night. Bobby’s parental duties are at odds with the freedoms and responsibilities of most teenagers. But, as he puts it, “I’m supposed to suck it up and do all the right things if I can, even if I screw it up and have to do it over.”

Chapters alternate between past and present, until finally the two timelines merge. The temporal divergence clearly shows the effects of fatherhood on Bobby, and echoes his struggle to balance his own identity before and during parenthood.

The first-person narrative relies on short sentences; Bobby’s vernacular shapes both his external sense of the world and his internal voice. For instance, when he is lost in a long day of spray-painting a graffiti mural, his disjointed thoughts evoke his literal breathlessness: “I’m losing wall now … I’m going to have to find the kid’s face … I’m out of breath and running out of color in the cans. I’m almost empty. But I got to find the baby’s face”.

The secondary characters are also compelling, including Bobby’s best friends and his parents—his mother, who refuses on principle to help her son raise his baby, albeit at considerable emotional cost to herself, and his open and helpful father, who takes in Bobby and Feather before they move to quieter Ohio to live with his brother.

  •  

    Consider the challenges faced by teen parents. How is the situation more difficult for a teen single parent? In small groups, discuss how life would change for such a teen. Is it possible to stay in school, work to provide for a child, have friends and still care for a baby?

  •  

    As you read, identify who supports Bobby and who makes his situation more difficult. After reading the first 50 pages, consider why Bobby might be raising Feather on his own, without Nia. Revisit this question after 100 pages, and again at the end of the book. Compare your theories and conclusions with those of others in your reading group.

  •  

    The chapters in this book alternate between the present and the past. Reflect on why the author chose to use this technique. How does it add to the way the story unfolds? Record your thoughts in your reader-writer’s notebook.

  •  With a partner, discuss how you think life changes for a teen who becomes a parent.
  •  

    While you read, pay attention to Bobby’s frame of mind in the “Then” and the “Now” chapters. How does it differ?

  •  

    Fast forward 10 years in Bobby and Feather’s lives. Write the next chapter, using Feather’s voice, describing life with her dad in Heaven, Ohio.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To solve problems
  • To use information
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal Development