Tears of a Tiger Summary

Sharon Draper

Tears of a Tiger

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Tears of a Tiger Summary

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Tears of a Tiger is a 1994 teen novel by American author Sharon M. Draper. Focusing on African-American students at Hazelwood High School, it is the first of the Hazelwood Trilogy, a series of interconnected books following the students as they face tough issues and work towards graduation. Tears of a Tiger focuses on a seventeen-year-old African-American boy named Andy, who is dealing with the consequences of a drunk driving accident that claimed the life of his best friend. Told through a partially epistolary format, including journal entries and newspaper articles, the novel is critically acclaimed for its unflinching portrayal of teenage life and for tackling hard issues including drunk driving and teen suicide. Exploring themes of guilt, regret, atonement, and the impact that deaths have on those left behind, Tears of a Tiger is still a popular reading choice for high school students. Draper’s debut novel, it was awarded the Josh Steptoe New Talent Award in 1995.

The story opens with Andy and a group of his friends celebrating after winning their high school basketball game. Andy is one of the stars of the team, and is considered to have a bright future. The boys have a couple of beers before they head out, but Andy feels okay to drive. He’s not, and the car slams into a wall soon afterwards. Andy and his friends BJ and Tyrone make it out of the car, but their friend Robbie doesn’t. He’s trapped inside as the door jams, and he yells for his friends to help him out. They try to pull open the door but nothing works, and Robbie dies in the car. The book then flashes forward to months later, as Andy is dealing with the fallout. Legally, he got off relatively easy, receiving a two-year suspended sentence that allowed him to stay in school, as long as he takes DUI classes and does community service. However, he’s consumed by guilt and blames himself for Robbie’s death. He feels like he should have been punished more than he was. Andy’s coach tells him Robbie wouldn’t want him to blame himself, but this doesn’t help. Andy is still plagued by guilt.

Soon, Andy is able to get up the courage to rejoin the team and play basketball again. In Robbie’s absence, Andy is asked to step up as team captain, and he leads the team effectively. Soon, everyone starts to get back to normal, but Andy is still unable to move forward. He loses interest in his schoolwork, and confesses to his girlfriend, Keisha, that he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. One day while out on a date with Keisha, he almost jumps into oncoming traffic; she pulls him back. He sees Keisha as his rock, but she’s not sure how to help him. Worried about their son, Andy’s parents send him to a therapist, who tells him that how he’s feeling is normal. She encourages him to reach out to Robbie’s parents. He writes them a letter, fearing their reaction, but Robbie’s mother is touched to hear about all the good times he remembers with her son and thanks him for reaching out.

Despite this, Andy continues to spiral downward. He starts to lose the support system he has left, as his parents stop coming to his games and Keisha eventually breaks up with him because she finds his depression and suicidal instincts hard to deal with. Even though she cares deeply for him, she feels that he’s beginning to pull her down with him. Having lost the people closest to him, or so he thinks, Andy skips school one day and commits suicide with his father’s gun. Andy’s death, the second tragedy to hit Hazelwood High, sends shockwaves through the group of friends. Although Robbie’s death was an accident, Andy’s suicide hits them even harder. Some of his teammates call him a coward, while Keisha is shell-shocked and crushed by the fact that she let him go before he ended his life. Everyone wishes he had reached out more for help. His little brother, Monty, who always looked up to Andy, visits his grave, and tells him he knows it’s okay to cry now, but he’ll still try to be big and tough like his big brother.

Sharon M. Draper is a critically acclaimed American author of children’s and young adult books. She is best known for the Hazelwood Trilogy, which includes Tears of a Tiger and sequels Forged by Fire (focusing on basketball player Gerald) and Darkness Before Dawn (focusing on Keisha). Her most critically acclaimed book is Out of My Mind, a novel focusing on a young girl with cerebral palsy as she enters a mainstream school and finds her voice, which spent eighteen months on the New York Times bestseller list. Considered one of the most prolific and successful authors of African-American children’s fiction, she is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award and the 2015 winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association. She is also the 1997 National Teacher of the Year.