Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Support Teen Literature Day during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year. Each day during the month of May, The Hub will feature a post about Teens’ Top Ten. Be sure to check in daily as we visit past winners and current nominees!
Angela Johnson’s The First Part Last is a little book with a lotta heart. Published in 2003, it was among the first Teens’ Top Ten. This does not mean, however, that it has fallen to the wayside among readers. As a Printz Award winner and recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, it is not only timeless on suggested reading lists, but sought out by teens who’ve been suggested it by other teens (and YA readers of all ages). I myself discovered it when a student told me about itâ€”and then began to see it everywhere.
The narrator of The First Part Last is Bobby, an average kid in New York City. He loves playing basketball with his boys, does pretty well in school, occasionally has a compulsion for tagging, and happens to be raising an infant daughter with some help from his divorced-but-present parents, a loving, grandmotherly neighbor, and whoever else is willing to help. In a narrative that easily flows back and forth between now and then, we see the past with Feather’s mother Nia, and spend a lot of the present wondering what happened to her. In both, Bobby’s love for mother and daughter are clear and admirable.
Bobby is an incredibly insightful narrator, and his story is both riveting and thought-provoking. His environment is a wonderful view into the life of a normal urban teenâ€”more familiar (to me, at least) than the poverty-stricken, street savvy dreamer or the prep-school princess dropping vegetables from her Manhattan penthouse. And at a whopping 130 pages, there is very little that can stop you from reading it in one or two sittingsâ€”even homework.
Jessica Pryde–currently reading Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
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