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.” – Bobby, The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson
I am conducting some research for a writing project. The research involves reading a few young adult fiction novels that deal with unplanned pregnancy, teen parenting and more.
Wow. Can we get a bigger trigger pointed at me? It is one thing to read Fessler or Robinson or Solinger. It is another thing entirely to read books written for teens like I was, books that describe my experience, books that talk about having to tell your boyfriend that your period has disappeared. Ay yi yi.
Last night I read a book titled The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Gulp. The novel (as described by Amazon) tells the story of a young father struggling to raise an infant. Bobby, 16, is a sensitive and intelligent narrator. His parents are supportive but refuse to take over the child-care duties, so he struggles to balance parenting, school, and friends who don’t comprehend his new role. Alternate chapters go back to the story of Bobby’s relationship with his girlfriend Nia and how parents and friends reacted to the news of her pregnancy. Bobby’s parents are well-developed characters, Nia’s upper-class family somewhat less so. Flashbacks lead to the revelation in the final chapters that Nia is in an irreversible coma caused by eclampsia.
I did enjoy the book (read it in an hour). I want to give the book some sort of positive review yet I am I struggling. How can I do research if my research triggers me? How do I put on some sort of emotional glasses that will filter out the tears and allow me to see the story yet not?
The book had a few triggers. The page or two that highlights the expectant parents meeting with an adoption agency, what they say to the expectant parents was massively disturbing to me on so many levels.
Oh, and yeah, years ago, right after I found my daughter and reunited with her father we found we both still had intense feelings for each other. We had many conversations, exchanges, and at one point her natural father says to me “It feels like we are living life backwards. Like we are putting the first part last.” The trigger there should be obvious.
I am struggling to give the book a good review and again, that is likely because the subject matter is so close to my aortic valve. But yeah, read it. Read it if you have teenage sons or daughters. Have them read it. Discuss it. I plan to do so with my 12 year old son.
Next up on the reading list is Annie’s Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager.