Study Guide

The First Part Last Choices

By Angela Johnson


I'll never forget that look and how her voice shook when she said, "Bobby, I've got something to tell you." (2.7)

When faced with an unexpected pregnancy, a woman has a lot of options: who to tell, whether to tell, and what to do. Nia's already made a pretty big choice. By telling Bobby, she's sharing the responsibility with him and acknowledging his role and responsibility in both the pregnancy… and the life of their baby.

"Bobby, what do you want her to do?"

My stomach is hurting by the time that question is out of his mouth and into the air. I don't say; it's not up to me. I don't say; whatever I want, I can't say. My dad already told me now was the time to shut my mouth. What Nia wants is what it's all about.

No pressure. (10.37-39)

Bobby thinks he doesn't have a choice because of what his dad and what society say, but he does have a choice. Is it really a no pressure situation for Bobby? How are the choices surrounding an unexpected teenage pregnancy different for the father than the mother?

But K-Boy says it doesn't matter what you do, what's gonna go down is already set. (13.4)

K-Boy's philosophy seems to be more of an excuse for behavior—like saying, "I was just going to fail anyway, so I didn't bother studying." It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Does Bobby have a choice in what he does when he drops Feather off at his neighbor's and spends the day spray painting? Duh. Of course he does.

"All I want now is to go home, curl up on my bed, and sleep for two days."

Fred turns away from me.

"There'll be no sleep for you. There's ten pounds of I need my daddy, a pissed-off mother, and a disappointed neighbor waiting at home. You ready to deal?"

I say, "I guess," and sink farther into the seat. (17.37-40)

After Bobby gets arrested for vandalism, he is exhausted, but he really needs to face the music and live with his choices. At least his dad tells it like it is. Check out Bobby's body language: He says he's ready to take on the consequences, but he doesn't really want to. He's ashamed of his choices. Let's hope he learns something from them.

I get up and wrap my arms around her 'cause we'd made the decision by waiting so long. We didn't want to face it, but now it's all in our face. Nothing to do but get on with it 'cause it's happening no matter how freaked out we get. (20.38)

Even choosing not to act is a choice. Earlier in the pregnancy, there were more options open, but now, Bobby and Nia have only a couple options available to them. And Bobby's right—the baby will come, whether they like it or not.

I figure if I block it all out I won't have to think about it. (22.10)

Bobby doesn't really want to listen to the social worker talk. He's still only sixteen, and sometimes he just wants not to have to be an adult. We can't really blame him; sixteen is pretty young to be a father and take full responsibility for a child.

It's the right thing. Everybody says so, and I want to believe the s*** everybody says. I want to believe it's unselfish. I want to believe none of this is supposed to be about me. (22.19)

There's a big difference between wanting to believe and actually believing. The push for adoption could be seen as a commentary on how responsible (or irresponsible) the parents view Bobby and Nia, but we could also interpret the push for adoption as selfish on the part of the parents. Maybe they just don't want to deal with a baby.

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. (25.27)

Bobby wants to be carefree, to be a sixteen-year-old kid, but he makes his choices now with Feather's welfare in mind, setting aside his own desires to do what's right. We can't fault him for that.

I look at the adoption papers stacked in front of me, then fold them in half before I tear them. (29.48)

When faced with the choice to go through with the adoption, Bobby, for the first time, listens to his own instincts and makes the choice that feels right to him. It may be more difficult for him in the long run, but the rewards will be exponential.

I will talk about how I didn't know if it would all work out as me and Feather pulled out of New York on the bus, and waved to everybody we'd left behind. (31.8)

Even though Bobby's choice is full of uncertainty, there's a lot of hope as he looks to the future in Heaven, Ohio.

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