Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tears of A Tiger by Sharon M. Draper

From the back of the novel:

Andy Jackson was driving the car that crashed one night after a game, killing Robert Washington, his best friend and the captain of the Hazelwood High Tigers.  It was late, and they'd been drinking , and now,k months later, Andy can't stop blaming himself.  As he turns away from family, friends, and even his girlfriend, he finds he's losing the most precious thing of all--his ability to face the future.

This book is very unique in its writing style.  It's written in several different styles (letters, articles, homework assignments, and dialogues) as friends cope with the death of their fellow classmate, Robert Washington.  Because of the writing style, "Tears of A Tiger" reads fairly quickly and would be a perfect "read aloud" novel in any middle grades Language Arts classroom.  Assigning students speaking parts will help eliminate any confusion when the dialogue speaker suddenly changes without introduction.  The writings incorporate dialect and informal conversation into the novel, which add to its realism and relevancy.  This was my first exposure to a novel that uses multiple writing styles, but I admit--I liked the variety!  It kept me interested and turning the pages!!

Andy is having a troublesome time overcoming the death of Robert.  He feels as if his girlfriend Keisha has helped him most.  "Keisha's cool.  If it hadn't been for the Keisha, I mighta really gotten depressed.  After the accident, Keisha was always there.  She came to the hospital, the funeral, to the trial.  She was the only one I could cry in front of and not be embarrassed.  My father kept telling me to put it behind me, to quit dwellin' on the past, to get on with my life, but Keisha said stuff like, 'I know it hurts, baby--go ahead and let it out.'" (page 75)  This is our first glimpse at an unhealthy dependency that Andy has on Keisha to get him past Robert's death.  As most of Andy's friends seem to be moving on with their lives, Andy is simply going through the motions of life--showing very little effort in anything other than basketball.

Stereotypes are another area that Andy struggles to overcome.  As a young black student, he makes himself feel inferior to other white students.  I really enjoyed the wisdom that Draper used from the class' English teacher when the topics of white/black come in class discussion.  Ms. Blackwell says, "It's society that implants positives or negatives onto certain ideas.  You have the option to accept, reject, or change the stereotypes that currently exist." (page 86)  I felt this was a very powerful response--one that students today need to hear!
As the novel progresses we sense an internal battle going on within Andy's head.  He feels like he is drowning in sorrow and guilt, and one part of him feels he needs help to over come it while the other part of him feels as if he can handle it on his own.  When life becomes unbearable, Andy reaches out to other people who seem occupied in his moment of need.  He ends his life without thinking of how his suicide will affect those left behind: his friends from school, his family, or his little brother.

Themes which emerge throughout the novel include: underage drinking, drinking and driving, guilt, consequences, lack of parental support, race, education and earning good grades, peer pressure, depression, teen relationship dependency, isolation, suicide, and death.

To purchase "Tears of a Tiger" (or the other books in the trilogy, you can go here, here, and here.
Visit the website of Sharon M. Draper to learn more about her and her other writings!

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