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The First Part Last (Heaven Trilogy Series #2)

The First Part Last (Heaven Trilogy Series #2)

4.4 266
by Angela Johnson

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Bobby is a typical urban New York City teenager -- impulsive, eager, restless. For his sixteenth birthday he cuts school with his two best buddies, grabs a couple of slices at his favorite pizza joint, catches a flick at a nearby multiplex, and gets some news from his girlfriend, Nia, that changes his life forever: He's going to be a father. Suddenly things like


Bobby is a typical urban New York City teenager -- impulsive, eager, restless. For his sixteenth birthday he cuts school with his two best buddies, grabs a couple of slices at his favorite pizza joint, catches a flick at a nearby multiplex, and gets some news from his girlfriend, Nia, that changes his life forever: He's going to be a father. Suddenly things like school and house parties and fun times with friends are replaced by visits to Nia's pediatrician and countless social workers who all say that the only way for Nia and Bobby to lead a normal life is to put their baby up for adoption. Then tragedy strikes Nia, and Bobby finds himself in the role of single, teenage father. Because his child -- their child -- is all that remains of his lost love.

With powerful language and keen insight, Johnson tells the story of a young man's struggle to figure out what "the right thing" is and then to do it. The result is a gripping portrayal of a single teenage parenthood from the point of view of a young on the threshold of becoming a man.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Author Angela Johnson follows up her Coretta Scott King Award–winning novel, Heaven, with this absorbing prequel about a single teen struggling to accept his new paternal role.

In chapters that flash between Bobby's relationship with Nia leading up to Feather's birth (entitled "then") and his life now that he's a father on his own ("now"), Johnson paints an honest, vivid portrait of a man straddling the line between childhood and adulthood. Throughout the book, Bobby fights his own sleep deprivation and desire to hand off Feather to someone else for caretaking, and in one tense episode, he takes off to go spray-painting while his daughter is looked after by a neighbor. Chapter by chapter the events surrounding Bobby's situation become clearer, and after the narrative reaches a pivotal chapter (called "Nia") that marks Bobby's transformation into single parenthood, the true surprise comes near the end, when we learn what has happened to Feather's mom that eventually spurs Bobby to move to Heaven, Ohio.

In a powerful, spare read that will grip you on several levels, Johnson delivers a worthy continuation of Heaven. The characters' relationship dynamics -- Bobby with Nia, his parents, and Feather -- are deep yet subtle, while the book's main character is one not often found in young adult literature. The First Part Last is an original read that will stir you to the core. Matt Warner

Publishers Weekly
A 16-year-old tells the story of how he became a single dad.In a starred review of this companion to Heaven, PW said, "The author skillfully relates the hope in the midst of pain." Ages 12-up. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Narrated in first-person point of view from the perspective of Bobby, a young, black male, this adolescent novel depicts life before and after having a child. By showing the tremendous responsibility that accompanies teenage parenthood, Johnson attempts to compel teenagers to evaluate the ramifications of premarital sex and pregnancy. Because most stories are written from the perspective of the teenage mother, the author presents her story in a unique way by writing from the viewpoint of a teenage father. The cover of the novel depicts a young African-American male holding an infant, which foreshadows the content of the novel. Stylistically, by titling the chapters consistently "now" and "then," except for one chapter is titled "Nia" and the final chapter titled "heaven," Johnson compels the reader to examine closely the changes that occur in Bobby's life. The title as well the book's division into four parts help emphasize the tremendous impact that Feather, Bobby's baby daughter, has on the young protagonist. By setting the book in New York, Angela Johnson helps debunk many common stereotypes. The entire novel attempts to teach about life, growth, and maturity. Johnson does a good job of showing the impact that having a child can have on life. 2003, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ages 12 up.
—Alicia Dodson
I'm really glad that Johnson wrote this prequel to Heaven. Bobby was a character that everyone wanted to know more about. This well-written book is not like anything that I've ever read before. It goes fast and has realistic fiction, romance, and suspense all in one. Most teen pregnancy books are about what the girl goes through, but this one is written from a different, exciting angle. Both girls and boys can read it. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Simon & Schuster, 144p,
— Teens' Top Ten nominator, age 13
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2003: On the cover of this book is an appealing photograph of a young black man with a tiny infant. This picture introduces the novel to the YA reader—here is the story of a teenage father, loving his little daughter. How did this happen? Angela Johnson tells us the story through the narrative of the father, Bobby, in a series of vignettes "then" and "now." For Johnson's readers, there is even a connection to her previous novel, Heaven, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. There is believable language, with occasional swearing and some references to Bobby's sexual experiences with Nia, the baby's mother. Bobby is an urban teenager from a middle-class family, with parents who truly care about him and his baby. Stress over the baby's arrival, however, causes the parents' separation, and this, of course, doesn't help Bobby cope. Bobby and Nia had planned to give the baby up for adoption, but then tragedy strikes Nia, and everyone's future is changed. Bobby is a loving father who adores his baby even though it seems impossible to take good care of her, go to school and prepare for college, and stay in touch with his good friends. Johnson has a way of getting to her readers' emotions with few words, creating characters we really care about. Her young people are thoughtful, conscientious, and loving—certainly with failings, but trying to do better. (An ALA Best Book for YAs and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.) KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Simon & Schuster, Pulse, 132p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Angela Johnson's Printz Award-winning novel (S & S, 2003) is perfectly suited to the audiobook medium, and Khalipa Oldjohn narrates this first person tale with poignant authenticity of tone and pacing. At 16, Bobby struggles to be a father to his newborn daughter while keeping up with school, maintaining his boyhood friendships, and trying to live up to his parents' expectations. Told in alternating passages of "Now" and "Then," the back-story that has brought Bobby to this point falls steadily but deliberately into place, with the revelation of why Bobby is a single father arriving only near the very end. In spite of its brevity, the story is complex and satisfying. Bobby is both boy and man, responsible and overwhelmed, near panic and able to plan an intelligent and loving future for Feather, the daughter he adores and nurtures. In audio format, this story can readily be shared in just a class period or two and will grab listeners immediately, making it an ideal subject for class discussion. It will also be instantly popular for leisure reading outside of school.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"The rules: If she hollers, she is mine. If she needs to be changed, she is always mine. In the dictionary next to 'sitter,' there is not a picture of Grandma. It's time to grow up. Too late, you're out of time. Be a grown-up." Sixteen-year-old Bobby has met the love of his life: his daughter. Told in alternating chapters that take place "then" and "now," Bobby relates the hour-by-hour tribulations and joys of caring for a newborn, and the circumstances that got him there. Managing to cope with support, but little help, from his single mother (who wants to make sure he does this on his own), Bobby struggles to maintain friendships and a school career while giving his daughter the love and care she craves from him at every moment. By narrating from a realistic first-person voice, Johnson manages to convey a story that is always complex, never preachy. The somewhat pat ending doesn't diminish the impact of this short, involving story. It's the tale of one young man and his choices, which many young readers will appreciate and enjoy. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
U.S. News and World Report Johnson has carved a niche writing realistically about young people's issues.

SLJ, starred review Brief, poetic, and absolutely riveting.

Publishers Weekly, starred review Readers will only clamor for more.

Booklist, starred review Poetry.

Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Angela Johnson's Heaven Trilogy Series , #2
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The First Part Last

By Angela Johnson

Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2003 Angela Johnson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-689-84922-2

Chapter One


My mom says that I didn't sleep through the night until I was eight years old. It didn't make any difference to her 'cause she was up too, listening to the city. She says she used to come into my room, sit cross-legged on the floor by my bed, and play with my Game Boy in the dark.

We never talked.

I guess I thought she needed to be there. And she must have thought her being there made everything all better for me.


I get it now. I really get it.

We didn't need to say it. We didn't have to look at each other or even let the other one know we saw each other in the glow of the Game Boy.

So last week when it looked like Feather probably wasn't ever going to sleep through the night, I lay her on my stomach and breathed her in. My daughter is eleven days old.

And that sweet new baby smell ... the smell of baby shampoo, formula, and my mom's perfume. It made me cry like I hadn't since I was a little kid.

It scared the hell out of me. Then, when Feather moved on my stomach like one of those mechanical dolls in the store windows at Christmas, the tears dried up. Like that.

I thought about laying her in the middle of my bed and going off to find my old Game Boy, but I didn't.

Things have to change.

I've been thinking about it. Everything. And when Feather opens her eyes and looks up at me, I already know there's change. But I figure if the world were really right, humans would live life backward 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.


And this is how I turned sixteen....

Skipped school with my running buddies, K-Boy and J. L., and went to Mineo's for a couple of slices. Hit a matinee and threw as much popcorn at each other as we ate. Then went to the top of the Empire State Building 'cause I never had before.

I said what everybody who'd ever been up there says.

"Everybody looks like ants."

Yeah, right....

Later on that night my pops, Fred, made my favorite meal - cheese fries and ribs - at his restaurant. I caught the subway home and walked real slow 'cause I knew my mom had a big-ass cake for me when I got there, and I was still full. (In my family, special days mean nonstop food.)

I never had any cake though 'cause my girlfriend Nia was waiting on our stoop for me with a red balloon. Just sittin' there with a balloon, looking all lost. I'll never forget that look and how her voice shook when she said, "Bobby, I've got something to tell you."

Then she handed me the balloon.


Excerpted from The First Part Last by Angela Johnson Copyright © 2003 by Angela Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Angela Johnson has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels The First Part Last, Heaven, and Toning the Sweep. The First Part Last was also the recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is also the author of the novels Looking for Red and A Certain October. Her books for younger readers include the Coretta Scott King Honor Book When I Am Old with You, illustrated by David Soman; Wind Flyers and I Dream of Trains, both illustrated by Loren Long; and Lottie Paris Lives Here and its sequel Lottie Paris and the Best Place, both illustrated by Scott M. Fischer. Additional picture books include A Sweet Smell of Roses, Just Like Josh Gibson, The Day Ray Got Away, and All Different Now. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio. Visit her at AJohnsonAuthor.com.

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The First Part Last 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 266 reviews.
mike68 More than 1 year ago
The book First Part Last by Angela Johnson was really good. Anyone looking for a good book that is short and and still fun to read, this is the book for you. You learn alot about teenage pregnacy, and all of the things you have to over come. The main characters name is Bobby, he is 16 and since he had intercourse with his girlfriend Nia, his life has changed forever. Bobby has to get rid of friends, sports, and his studies. Once his girlfriend Nia has the baby, he has to take care of it, he never sleeps anymore because Feather is keeping him awake. Bobby is raising this baby all by himself. When the baby was born they were going to put Feather up for adoption. Bobby loved Feather at first sight, so he decided that he wanted to take care of him. That might have been the worst decision he has ever made. People think that they wont get pregnant but this story shows that it happens often. I Liked the book alot, I reccomend this book to teenagers that are thinking about having sex for the first time, it could change your mind.
Nekale Medearis More than 1 year ago
Overall this was a great book... im happy to see a males point of view in raising a kid... no men dont give birth but this book shows just how a woman steps up and takes resposibiliy so can a man... great read :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best books that I have read. It had capture me in Part 1. I've read this book in three days. I wanted to keep reading it and bring it home so I could finish it. But, I couldn't It was time for me to leave and go. But, this book is great. I gave it 5 stars because, it deals with the pressure of going to his parents and Nia's. Him crying for his mom because, he now has to be a grown up even though he's just a kid hisself.
westgate More than 1 year ago
The first part last by Angela Johnson, is an amazing book. I really recommen you to read it. The author really explains everything with details its very esay to understand she makes you feel like you were one of the characters in the book. Bobby the main charaters would change your mind about babies, if your a person that don't like babies he will make you feel how wonderful having a kid is,but mostly he's going to give you a lesson when to have one too. Its not that easy, so read this book its very intersting and emotional.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I remember my teacher had the class relad this in turns. It was a good way to teach us about these issues. Really good book for a teen to read.
lashara More than 1 year ago
I recently read this book and i thought it was really good! The book was very realistic! Things like teenage pregnancy and death during labor are real life things that are not planned or predicted! I felt that the father was very smart and deep and that he didnt quite know what he was doing or what he'd gotten himself into but he did the right thing for himslef and his baby! All in all its a great book not very long but has a very lomglasting impact!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book i read when i was 12 ...and its a great story with a lot of cuss words thou
Jodi-Lynn90 More than 1 year ago
I usually buy and read about 2 to 3 books a week and this is in my top 10 favorites. Everyone usually focuses on the mother when it comes to teen pregnancy, but this book is told by the father who is raising his baby alone. The entire book is great, but the ending is amazing! I think teenagers and Adults both would enjoy this very touching story.
Jacki Alberts More than 1 year ago
Every teen should read this!
Brooke Hull More than 1 year ago
i loved this book! its a great read! =) it made me think about the choices that we make in life as teenagers...i think teens should read this book
Julie Sirhall More than 1 year ago
It is ver moving. It is very powerful and enjoyable. I would recomend this to anybody and everybody.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was overly ambitious. I get how this is to provide insight on the male side of teen pregnancy, but it really wasnt anything I didnt expect. Some of it was confusing because Bobby never straight out said anything, he was all dramatic using metaphors and imagery. Simple acts like waking Feather up could lead to him babbling about something different for pages to come. Why didnt he flat out say what happened to Nia? What the heck happened to this story? It was just too short to really portray anything. Im sorry, but I was disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can someonlend me this book,please..........
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am reading it rite now
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
This small, short book packs a powerful punch and how I overlooked it for so long, surprises me. With only 132 pages, this book is about reality, it spoke my song and although it was not a complicated story, its message was clear. Bobby’s life changed on his sixteenth birthday when Nia, his girlfriend announced he was going to be a father. Yeah, Bobby a father at the age of sixteen. The books titles alternate between “then” and “now” and eventually they meet up and it’s Bobby who had made the choices he is living with. With “now” we read about Bobby talking on the responsibilities of fatherhood: his struggles, his reflections on life and those moments of fatherhood that put a smile on his face. As we read about “then” we begin with how the two teens struggle with the decisions that need to be made now, as they begin to see that their road ahead will not be easy. They think they know what they are headed into and they know that they learn as they go but being a teen, this new responsibility is huge and that has to come first. Reading both segments was real; it hit home as I once walked those streets and I know how hard it can be. I have to applaud the author on not making this life a glamorous one but telling it just like it is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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SmilingRain More than 1 year ago
Excellent book! I love the way she wrote it, going back and forth between now and then, because isn't that the way we live our lives? We go through something and then look back to what changed in our lives to get us there. Then we use that to determine whether we made a good choice or a bad choice, and apply it to the current situation. I am a HS Family & Consumer Scienes (Home Ec.) teacher, and I read this to my parenting classes. It's a little more difficult for them to keep up with since we can only do a small amount each day, so I usually recap the previous day's reading prior to starting. They all love the book and rush to the library to check it out ... especially if we "don't have time" to finish it ;-) (whatever I can do to get them reading!) I believe it accurately shows the changes that come from being both a single parent and one still in school, especially high school. Additionally, the characters are black, which further relates to the majority of my students. I would recommend this book to students as early as 8th or 9th grade (1 slightly steamy section prevents me from recommending any lower).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book...did a book review in high school..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is such a GREAT book..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book to death. It gave me a point of view that i never haf befire. I dint want to put the book down when i started to read it. Must read book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have ever read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. I loved how it had the then and now! It is such a great book.