The First Part Last

by Angela Johnson

Sixteen-year-old Bobby is overwhelmed by love for his infant daughter, Feather. He’s... read more

Sixteen-year-old Bobby is overwhelmed by love for his infant daughter, Feather. He’s also overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for her. Bobby’s daily life unfolds in a series of middle-of-the-night feedings and early morning struggles to get out of the house and to school on time. His exhaustion is palpable. His divorced, middle-class parents watch from the sidelines. His mother, with whom he lives, insists that Bobby take full responsibility for Feather, and she steels herself from stepping in every time she sees him falter. Bobby adores his child, but he also misses being a teenager without any worries, although the price for slipping into carefree ways is a high one. In chapters that move back and forth from the present to the past, Bobby, who is African American, reveals the jumbled pattern of his life and also recalls his loving relationship with Feather’s mother, Nia. The chapters in the past move slowly but surely forward—through the revelation that Nia is pregnant and the resulting shock to the final chapters that reveal why Bobby is now the sole parent of his child. Johnson’s powerful prose is so firmly grounded in Bobby’s perspective that it’s as if his soft, pained voice is speaking his story aloud. The title refers not only to the structure of the narrative, but also to the fact that this is a prequel of sorts to Johnson’s novel Heaven (Simon & Schuster, 1998), in which a slightly older Bobby and Feather are secondary characters. Winner, CCBC Coretta Scott King Author Award Discussion (Ages 13–18)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2004

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