2003. The First Part Last. New York: Simon and
Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0689849222.
This contemporary realistic fiction story has won two awards, the Michael Printz Award and Coretta Scott King Award.
In the story Bobby is only sixteen but he has a baby daughter he is going to raise.
He feels just like a child himself but he has to do what is best for Feather. The story is divided into four parts. The first part and title refers to words Bobby thought while holding his baby, “But
I figure if the world was 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.” In the first three weeks sometimes
he is overwhelmed with keeping Feather and wants, “I just want a note to get me out of it. Just one note.”
This story is written with flashbacks. Each short chapter is titled “then”
or “now.” Then is the time before Feather is born to provide information
what Bobby’s life was like before he became a father and how his life changed after the baby. Now is the time after
Feather is born. Bobby is struggling with being a father while still a child
The story starts with Bobby’s sixteenth birthday, his girlfriend Nia approaches him and tells him that she is
going to have a baby. The story progresses through the changes in his life switching from then to now to illustrate how Bobby’s
life has changed and how he is changing. “Some kids my age are hanging
around this arcade. I’ve been wanting to check out, but haven’t had
the time, and probably won’t ever have. They lean against the games and
each other. I look at them and feel like I’m missing something.”
Now Bobby has to deal with the love he has for Feather and the daily routine of caring for her. In the “Then”
chapters we follow Bobby through Nia’s pregnancy, their feelings, and decisions they have to make.
The climax of the story is when Nia has problems with her pregnancy and goes into an irreversible vegetative coma when
Feather is born. Bobby tears us the adoption papers and decides he and Feather
would be their own family. He makes the decision to go to Heaven, Ohio to raise Feather.
The subject of teenage sex and pregnancy can be very controversial but it is a subject that affects our society. Unlike the young man in this story, not many teenage boys decide to keep their babies.
There is a theme of doing something, not because it is easy, but because it is the right thing to do. To own up to your responsibilities.
Kirkus Review says, “By narrating from a realistic first-person voice, Johnson manages to convey a story that
is always complex, never preachy.” Johnson tells the story of a strong young man who is trying to do the right thing
for his baby that he loves.
Lowry, Lois. 1993. The Giver. Boston: Houghton Miflin Company.
1994 winner of the Newbery Award is a fascinating and thought provoking book. The
setting of the story is in a community where all aspects of living are rigidly controlled.
Everything the members of the community say or do is being observed. If
a member should transgress, the behavior is announced to the community. Even the weather is controlled. There is no sunshine or snow. It is always the same. The members of the community cannot see colors nor do they have feelings. They do
not have choices. Their jobs, spouses, children, everything is chosen for them. All children are taught to use precise language. Life there is so orderly, predictable,
and painless. Persons who do not follow the Book of Rules or break the rules three times, babies who do not thrive, and old
people who have lived long enough are released from the community.
In this community lives the protagonist, Jonas who is approaching his twelfth birthday.
Each birthday for the children in the community is marked by an event until the age of twelve. For example, sevens get jackets that are buttoned in the front, eights begin volunteer hours, nine year
olds are given bikes to ride, and tens lose their braids and long hair. When a child reaches twelve they are assigned their
life’s work. This is where Jonas’s life begins to change. He is selected to be the Receiver of Memories. With the Giver
he learns about colors, sunshine, snow, and feelings. He discovers love. As the
Receiver of Memories he has to carry the burden and pain of memories for the whole community.
He becomes angry with his friends for being satisfied with the sameness.
He is deeply disturbed when he finds out that when a member is released he is killed.
He witnesses his father kill a smaller twin baby because the community does not allow twins. This is the turning point in his life. He and the Giver decide
that Jonas must leave and then the community would have to deal with memories good and bad.
Their plan gets changed when Jonas discovers that Gabriel, the baby to whom he has been giving some of his memories,
will be released the next morning. Jonas takes Gabriel and leaves. The ending of the story is open. The reader does not have
the certainty that Jonas and Gabriel found a home or is it just a memory.
author’s selection of words in the story gives a feeling of sterility to the community, dwelling for house, sleepingroom
for bedroom, referring to children by their ages, the matching of spouses, and naming and placement of newchildren. All the
members of the community are always so polite and always apologize.
The theme in this story is the value of having feeling and living life to the fullest or having a safe haven but no
choices, no feelings, no pain, and no memories. Lowry creates this fantasy of a seemingly ideal community that has dark secrets
which are slowly revealed under its supposed perfection.
Wolff, Virginia Euwer.
2001. True Believer. New
Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0689828276.
This contemporary realistic novel is written in free verse form and has been recognized for its writing. This is the
second novel in the Make Lemonade Trilogy.
This story is told in the first person narrative by the protagonist, LaVaughn.
LaVaughn speaks in a clear, sometimes lyrical voice with mature insights that come from her experiences.
This story takes place in a poor and sometimes violent urban area where LaVaughn lives and goes to school. There are
shootings at LaVaughn’s school and in her neighborhood. Success in
school is LaVaughn’s way out of there.
The author, Virginia Wolff reveals the main character, fifteen year old LaVaughn as she is experiencing the problems
of growing up. She has had two best friends Myrtle and Annie since they were very young.
Together they have gone through many major life experiences but now their relationship is changing. Myrtle and Annie have joined a church and have started distancing themselves from LaVaughn because she
won’t go with them. LaVaughn contends with the issue of her beliefs that are now so different from her friends. LaVaughn
is working to make her dream of going to college come true. She has help from
the teachers at her school that recognize her ability. They get her into special
science and grammar classes with Dr. Rose. These classes put her with students
who are high achievers like she is. She also deals with the issue of homosexuality. She has a crush on her old friend Jody until she finds out that he is homosexual. She is trying to puzzle out her world. Her character’s confusion is imparted
with these words, “I don’t know anything about anything. I have been
a chump and a fool. Some days things add up, other days I know I was put on the
LaVaughn thoughts reveal what kind of person she is. She is not always
nice. She wasn’t nice to Patrick at first because of his clothes and turned
down his invitation to the dance. She grows out of her narrowed mindedness about
Patrick and looks beyond to see the person.
The climax of the story is her sixteenth birthday party. Jody comes to her birthday party and gives her a present. She realizes, “it came to me down there on the floor how it was not just Jody
that was making me so miserable. It was my not forgiving him for being Jody that
was the worst, weighting me down.” This mature conclusion creates for her an illumination of Dr. Rose’s
saying, “We will rise to the occasion which is life.”
This uplifting book will take young readers through situations many of them will recognize and give them hope that
they will triumph in the end.