The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

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Bibliography

Johnson, A. (2003). The First Part Last. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9780689849237

Plot Summary

Bobby and Nia are teenagers living normal lives in New York City until they find out Nia is pregnant. They must make tough decisions and their lives are completely changed. Readers are taken along for the ride through Bobby’s point of view to see what it is like for a 16 year old urban teen about to be a father.

Critical Analysis

Johnson’s focus on the male involved in a teen pregnancy story is a fresh take on this topic and the main character, Bobby, matures throughout the pages of the book. Johnson uses hip and current dialog to move the story along through some predictable and some unpredictable events. The story is set in Brooklyn and New York City, but details are vague enough to appeal to readers in any location. Johnson avoids the negative stereotypes of a black male adolescent and instead shows the reader that young men can make mistakes, but still be young men of character, take responsibility for their actions, and grow into responsible young adults. The alternating chapter style of “then”/”now” can be slightly confusing at first, but maintains the reader’s interest while they try to figure it out and then internalize the structure. This book is an honest look at a situation a lot of teens find themselves in. Even though a very unfortunate turn of events takes place, the ending will give hope to readers, whether in a similar situation or not. This offering by Johnson is a good addition to a young adult collection as it is well written, relevant, and engaging.

Activity

Have students log all their activities and how they spend their time for one day.

Then, have students personalize a bag of flour to look like a baby. Have students carry around this baby for one 24-hour day. Give them a schedule of when to feed, burp, change, and rock to sleep the “baby”. They should also log all their activities for the day with the “baby”.

Afterward, students should create a short presentation using a Web 2.0 tool to show the differences in their day without and with the “baby”. The presentation should include specific times where they would not have been able to do something they wanted because they were taking care of the “baby”.

Related Resources

Teens For Life Website

This website offers free access to counselors 24/7 and also has an area where teens can talk to other teens who became pregnant unexpectedly.

Providing readers of this book a way to talk to someone for free and without threat could be a lifeline for a teen reading this book who is afraid to share information about a pregnancy.

Unknown Author. (2009). Pregnant? Teens For Life. Retrieved from: http://www.teensforlife.com/pregnant-we-can-help/

Stay Teen Website

This website provides information on sex, birth control, love, and dating in a fun and honest way for teens.

Having a resources like this designed to be interesting and appealing to teens may help to prevent some of the issues Bobby and Nia faced in the book due to Nia’s unexpected pregnancy.

Whole website. (2015). The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved from: http://stayteen.org/

A Certain October

Another novel from Angela Johnson that also deals with a teen having to adjust after a life-changing event.

Johnson, A. (2013). A Certain October. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 978068987065

Published Review

Goldsmith, F. (2005, February 1). [Review of the book The First Part Last]. School Library Journal. Available online from School Library Journal: http://www.slj.com/

Image from Amazon.com, accessed June 10, 2015. Jacket photograph copyright 2003, John Healy.

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