Johnson, Angela. The First Part Last. Simon & Schuster, 2005. ISBN 978-0689849237 132 pp. $7.99
You got it–I dig the fairy tales.
Typically I prefer the stories that don’t have fairy tale endings, like Angela Johnson’s The First Part Last. The reader discovers right away that sixteen-year-old Bobby is raising his newborn baby, Feather, on his own. In swapping chapters titled “Then” and “Now” the story of Bobby’s single-fatherhood is revealed. We don’t often meet male characters who express such complexity of thought and feeling as Bobby. His desire to be a good father and his conflicting fear of fatherhood are most evident in the moments he longs to be a child again himself, followed the moments when he realizes this will never be the case.
This is an interesting and poetic look at a teenage father with heart. It would be great to pair with Hanging on to Max by Margaret Bechard. Two books showing kids making mistakes and facing the tough choices that follow.
Lipper, Joanna. Growing Up Fast. Picador, 2004. ISBN 978-0312422233 432 pp. $28
A co-worker pointed out a new non-fiction book that takes place in the town I went to high school in (Pittsfield, MA) and I felt compelled to see the city through someone else’s eyes. Growing Up Fast by Joanna Lipper is supposed to be about teen mothers living in Pittsfield, but I found it to be much more than that. Pittsfield used to be a pretty nice place to live with plenty of union jobs from General Electric and great scenery to boot. Many areas are still nice but, in recent years, GE has downsized its operations, PCBs were found all over the city plummeting real estate values, drug dealers from NY have moved in and locals have moved out looking for work, any work that can support their families.
The girls in this book were growing up during this change in the community. Many of their parents got laid off or were using drugs or both and most of the girls got caught up with young men who were just as confused and immature or were older dealers who seem to have been just using the girls. Not the cheeriest read, I’ll grant but Lipper does an excellent job of revealing the struggles that these girls and their families are going through.
I also recently finished both The Tale of Despereaux and The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, two books that Allison has mentioned, and really enjoyed both.