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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Author Angela Johnson follows up her Coretta Scott King Awardwinning 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