Tears of a

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Intro, Summary & General Questions

Tigers don't cry, or do they? After the death of his longtime friend and fellow Hazelwood Tiger, Andy, the driver of the car, blames himself and cannot get past his guilt and pain. While his other friends have managed to work through their grief and move on, Andy allows death to become the focus of his life. In the months that follow the accident, the lives of Andy and his friends are traced through a series of letters, articles, homework assignments, and dialogues, and it becomes clear that Tigers do indeed need to cry.

The Hazelwood Trilogy

Tears of a Tiger

Forged by Fire

Darkness Before Dawn


Nov. 8 - Robert Washington, age 17, captain of the Hazelwood High School basketball team, was killed last night in a fiery automobile accident on I-75. Witnesses say the car, driven by Andrew Jackson, 17, also of the Hazelwood team, had been noticeably weaving across the lanes of the expressway just before it hit a retaining wall and burst into flames.

General Questions:

1. Why did you write Tears of a Tiger?
I'd been teaching for many years, working with teenagers in middle school and high school. I knew I could write a book that they would love from the very first page. I knew what they didn't like (long, boring books) so I wrote just the opposite. The chapters are short, the action is intense, and the problems are real.

2. Why aren't the books in the Hazelwood trilogy written in order?
I wrote Andy's story first. That was Tears of a Tiger. I had no idea what an impact it would have. It won numerous awards and seemed to strike a chord with students and teachers all over. When I was asked to do a second book, I decided to take a minor character from the first book and develop him as the major character of the next book. That ended up being Gerald in Forged by Fire. Forged by Fire seems to come before Tears of a Tiger because it begins when Gerald is just three years old. He grows up to go to Hazelwood High School with Andy and Rob and the others. So those two books meet in the middle as companion books. I WROTE Tears of a Tiger first, but Forged by Fire HAPPENS first. The third book in the Hazelwood trilogy, Darkness Before Dawn, was written to answer all the questions I received about what happened to the characters in the first two books. Each book can stand alone and be read without the others, however. If I had known I was going to write three books when I started, I would have written them in order.

3. What are your immediate thoughts about this book and the message you tried to evoke?
I don’t think I had a grand plan in mind when I wrote it. I just wanted to write a good book. I certainly had no agenda designed to send a message to young people. When students ask me today “What do you think we should learn from this book?” I tell them "Whatever you got out of it!" A good book ought to bring out lots of different responses from those that read it—none of them pre-planned, and all of them very personal. Whatever they take away from the reading of the book is valuable.

4. Are any of the characters in Tears of a Tiger based on real people?
No, I made them up. But the ideas are based on real emotions and real understanding of grief. I think that’s why young people identify with the story.

5. Why does Tears of a Tiger end the way it does?
Tragedy is more powerful than comedy. It gets to the core of who we are and what we believe, and it makes us think long after a book is finished.

6. PLEASE tell me what happened to the characters in the trilogy after the end of the last book.
I probably would have to write another book to answer your questions. I don't ever know what will happen to a character until the story takes me to that place. I like the idea that the answers are not given, but imagined. You can create the answers yourself. Whatever you think probably happened, probably did, but even I'm not really sure. It's like the end of a movie. You see them heading down the road at the end, and you can probably guess what happens in the future, but the movie is over, so you have to imagine what you think will be. I know this might be a frustrating answer, but I really can't know unless I finish the story in another book. Perhaps one day I will. In the meantime, feel free to imagine anything you like.

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Reviews & Awards

In as gut-wrenching a book as I have read since Voigt's The Runner, first novelist Draper relates the story of Andy Jackson whose already tenuous self-esteem is shattered when he kills his best friend Robert while driving drunk. As he is burning alive, trapped in the car, Robert cries out "Oh God, please don't let me die like this! Andy!..."

From that horrendous scene, Draper relates how Tyrone and, BJ., the other boys in the car, are able to move on with life, Tyrone through a supportive relationship with Rhonda, and BJ. from finding God. But, they weren't driving, and their guilt is minor compared to Andy's.

As Draper moves us toward the inevitable end-Andy blowing his brains out with his father's shot gun-Andy's relationship with the psychologist, Dr. Carrothers, provides insight into the scars a white society can leave on a black male. He doesn't do as well in school as he could because that wouldn't be cool for a black basketball player; he sees his father as a sell out to the white establishment; he and his friends are hassled when entering stores.

In one vignette, Draper has teachers talking about how little you can really expect from blacks, and how Andy, being black, surely can't be all that upset by the death of his friend. When parting, one reminds the other that they have a Human Relations (!!!) meeting that afternoon. In another, Tyrone and BJ., recognizing how much Andy needs help, go to a school counselor who brushes off their concerns.

Andy does have all kinds of support: his coach is an understanding man; Keisha, his love, is as kind and gentle with Andy as one could ask for until even she has had enough of his tears and depression which he often hides behind outrageous behavior. But at the crucial moment when he needs them, his psychologist is flying to California, the coach isn't home, and Keisha's mother won't wake her up for an after midnight phone call.

To fully detail all that Draper has packed into this slight book would take thousands of words. Suffice to say, not only is Draper an author to watch for, but that this is as compelling a novel as any published in the last two decades. Buy it, read it, share it.

Dorothy M. Broderick.
VOYA February 1995 5Q 3P JS

  • 1995 American Library Association/Coretta Scott King Genesis Award
  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults for 1995
  • Best Book 1995 --Children's Book Council
  • Best Books for the Teen Age--1995 --New York City Library
  • Recommended Best--1995--Bank Street College
  • Best Book--1995 National Council for Social Studies
  • Best of the Best by VOYA and the American Library Association
  • One of the top 100 books for young adults for the millennium

The Hazelwood Trilogy

Tears of a Tiger

Forged by Fire

Darkness Before Dawn

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Tears of a Tiger
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Study Guides

Discussion Topics

  1. Tears of a Tiger begins with a tragic accident--a fatal car crash caused by drinking and driving. The story is then told from the points of view of the group of friends involved. How does this method of telling the story affect the reader's response? What advantages and disadvantages does this method of narrative offer?

  2. Many teenagers drink and then drive with no thought of the consequences. How is Andy like many young people today? How is he different? What makes this book more that just a moral warning to young readers about alcohol and vehicles?

  3. Describe the relationship between the friends in the book. How does Rob's death affect each of the young people individually and how does it affect their relationships as friends? Discuss whether is friendship enough when situations become monumental and overwhelming to young people.

  4. What do you know of Hazelwood High School from the descriptions given in the text? How would you describe the building itself, the teachers, the students, the administration, the "feel" of the school? How does it compare to high schools in your community. Why is a high school a good location to discuss serious teenage issues?

  5. Andy's source of physical release as well as a source of serious guilt comes through basketball. He loves the game, but feel guilty that he is given Rob's position of the team--a position that Andy was never good enough for when Rob was alive. How are sports important in the lives of young people? What positive as well as negative results can sports play in the life of a teenager?

  6. Andy's family had numerous problems. Andy's parents loved him, but seemed preoccupied with their own lives, and were helpless to see his pain. Andy could talk to his younger bother Monty, but the six year old was unable to help. How can families learn to cope effectively with tragedy and difficulties. How could Andy's family had been more successful?

  7. Andy's parents send him to see a psychologist to help him "talk through" his problems--to deal with the guilt and trauma cause by Rob's death. How successful are the efforts of the psychologist, and how was Andy able to convince the psychologist that he was effectively dealing with his problems? What serious psychological issues are raised though Andy's conversations with Dr. Carrothers?

  8. Describe Andy's gradual deterioration. Discuss all of the factors that contributed to Andy's suicide. Could Andy's death been prevented? How? What are the reactions of Andy's friends to his death and how do those reactions clarify that life is always a better solution than death?

  9. What are the problems created by discussing the problem of teen suicide and death in a novel for young adults? What dangers and what positive influences can result?

  10. What is the effect of Monty's final words to Andy in the last chapter? What does it say about the choice between life and death?

  11. What do the poems and essays written by the various students reflect about their lives and personalities? Why are the poems and essays an easy way to explain complicated feelings? How can self-expression be used as a tool for helping or healing?

  12. The teenagers in the novel are honest, realistic, and able to express themselves comfortably to each other and to the adults around them. Do teenagers speak two "languages"-- one for themselves and one for adults? Discuss.

  13. What is the effect of the use of modified "slang" in the conversations of the young people in the story? What is the effect of the conversational style of narration, which eliminates the use of traditional quotation marks as the speak to each other?

  14. Explain the title of the novel. What references can be found to "tears" and to "tigers?" Why does the title have one than one possible interpretation?

  15. Many people have asked the author why Andy was allowed to die at the end of the novel. What would have been the effect on the novel if Andy had lived?

  16. Why is tragedy more memorable and more powerful than happiness in a novel?

  17. Imagine Andy's brother Monty in ten years, when he will be the age that Andy was when he died. How will Monty's life be different? the same? changed? How will Monty's parents change in their attitudes toward Monty?

  18. Visualize the next ten years for Keisha, Gerald, and BJ. How will their lives be affected by the events of that year in high school? Create a scene in which they meet at a ten-year reunion. What will have happened to them and why?

  19. You are a reporter at one of the following scenes. Write the story for your newspaper.
    • Andy's trial for the accident which caused Rob's death
    • Rob's funeral
    • Andy's funeral
    • The grief counselor at school

  20. Write a letter to one of the characters in the book explaining your feelings about the events in the story. What advice would you give Keisha, or Monty, or Andy's parents? What would you say to Andy?



"--Yes, you may be right. I heard he was going to be the M.C. for that awful talent show they have. There's no real talent. All they have is that loud, disgusting rap music. Remember last year? That sweet little Donna Correlli was booed off the stage when she tried to sing opera. --Oh, don't get me started about rap music. . .meaningless, mindless noise. Well, there's the bell. I'm giving my first bell a pop quiz. Don't forget the human relations committee meeting tonight after school."

Read the quotes above and explain how the point of view of the character who makes the observation influences the description. What is slanted about the opinions of the teachers who are speaking? Why is personal observation not always fair and unbiased? Use examples from the book to support your statements.


" By that time, B.J. had gotten out, and we was lookin' for Rob. He musta passed out at first, cause all of a sudden we hear this screamin'. We ran around to that side but the door was bent shut and we couldn't get it open. All of us was screamin' by that time, because we could see his feet stickin' through the windshield. His legs was cut and bleedin' really bad. All we could see was these brand new Nike shoes sticking out the window, with the rest of Robert screamin and hollerin, stuck inside. So then Andy and B.J. climb on top of the car and start to knock the pieces of the windshield out of the way, so we can try to get Rob out that way. But then. . . then. . . we hear this heavy, thick sound, like an explosion in a closed room, and Andy and B.J. is knocked off the hood. Me and B.J. grab Andy then, and we have to hold him back, because the whole car is in flames, and Rob is still stuck inside, and we can hear him screaming, "Andy! Andy! Help me--Help me--Oh God, please don't let me die like this! Andy. . . . !"

Using the passage above as a guide, write a descriptive paper that uses sensory imagery. Use vivid verbs and powerful adjectives and adverbs as you write. Use as many of the senses as you can--sight, sound, smell, touch, taste--as well as deep, rich colors.


"--There's 14 seconds left to play and Hazelwood is still down by two. Covedale's Macintosh drives it down, tries for three, and--it rolls off the rim. The crowd is roaring! Billy Smith grabs it for Hazelwood, and passes it to Mills. Mills can't find an opening. The clock is running--the crowd is counting--10 seconds, nine, eight. . .He throws it off to Jackson, who is blocked by Stefanski. Jackson turns--he's got one clear shot, but he has never made a three pointer in his high school career! There's six seconds, five, four--he shoots--it touches the rim--it rolls around--two seconds--it's in!. . . and it's good!

--The crowd is spilling out of the stands and onto the floor. They're screaming and cheering and mobbing the team, who pulled out a fantastic win tonight. Andy Jackson should be very proud of himself tonight. He proved that he could stand up under pressure and in spite of the severe emotional strain he must have been under, he was able to pull it out. Congratulations to Jackson and to the Hazelwood team for a stunning 65-64 victory over Covedale. This is station WTLZ bringing you the high school game of the week.

Write a narrative paper about a sporting event or any school activity that would include the telling of a good story. Your reader should be able to picture the scene.

Choose one of the following research topics:

4a. Investigate the organization called S.A.D.D. (Students Against Driving Drunk) What has been its effect in high schools? How have students been getting involved to used positive peer pressure to stop the problem of teenage drinking and driving? 4b. Investigate the recent laws concerning drivers under the age of 18 who are involved in traffic fatalities. What is the usual punishment? Is Andy's punishment realistic or no longer true in many states? What do you think should be the punishment for young drivers who drink and cause the death of another person? 4c. Investigate the problem of teenage suicide. Why is not reported in the press? What steps can be taken by schools to prevent this problem before it happens. How can friends help other friends who seem to be depressed or suicidal?


" Your report card came in today's mail.     --I'm dead meat.     --How can you possibly say your grades are improving? You failed English and chemistry, and you just barely passed history and math! You even failed gym! How can you consider yourself an athlete if you can't even pass gym?     --I lost my gym shoes.     --You what?     --I lost my shoes, and the gym teacher takes off points if you're not dressed in proper gym clothes. But I found 'em. They were in Gerald's locker.     --Forget gym. What about English and chemistry? I talked to your English teacher a couple of months ago, and it seemed for awhile there that you were improving. What happened?     --I don't know. She don't like me.     --That's a weak excuse, Andrew. She seemed genuinely concerned when she called me. That doesn't sound like someone who doesn't like you. Have you done all your assignments in her class?     --Yeah, most of em. . . .well, some of em.     --What about tests?     --What about em?     --Don't play with me, boy. I'm trying to figure out what's going on here. How do you usually do on her tests?     --I guess I fail most of em.     --Do you study for the tests?     --Sometimes.     --How can you say you want to go to college? What college is going to take you with grades like this?     --I never said I wanted to go to college. You were the one who said I wanted to go to college!     --What do you mean? We've been talking about college since you were a little boy! Getting a degree--maybe even in the field of Business Administration.     --That's your dream, Dad, not mine.     --Well, what about basketball? Didn't you want to go to college to play ball so you could get a chance at professional basketball? You've really improved your game this year.     --How would you know? You didn't never come to even one of my games this year! Not one!     --Well, You know how hectic my schedule is. Besides, I've seen you in the yard when you shoot hoops with your friends. I know you're good.     --Yeah, right.     --But back to the subject at hand--this absolutely reprehensible report card!     --Why you gotta always use such big words? I know my report card stinks. Why can't you just say that?     --If you had a better vocabulary, perhaps you wouldn't be failing English!     --Why don't you just get off my case?

Write a conversation between a parent and a teenager that covers issues of school, or homework, or family problems.


" If I could change the world I'd get rid of peanut butter, bandaids, and five-dollar bills. I know this sounds like a weird list, but I got my reasons.

First, I'd get rid of peanut butter. When I was little, peanut butter and jelly was my favorite kind of sandwich. Mama would fix it as a special treat and it always made my lunch box smell so good. But Mama left and the peanut butter stayed. We get it free, so there's jars of it sitting around. Sometimes that's all there is. It sticks to my teeth and it seems like it sticks my bones together--it always makes me feel clogged up.

I'd also get rid of bandaids--for two reasons. One, they're beige. They say on the box, "skin tone" is the color of the bandages inside. Whose skin? Not mine! So I hate wearing bandaids because they're so noticeable and people always say, "How'd you get that cut, or that bruise, or those stitches?" And I always have to make up a reason about how I hurt myself. When Andy came back to school after the accident, he was wearing a bunch of bandaids. At least, it took the attention away from me for awhile. But I'd still eliminate bandaids--at least beige ones.

Finally, I'd get rid of five dollar bills. With a five dollar bill, somebody's dad can buy a bottle of whiskey, a nickel bag of pot, or a rock of crack. He smokes it, or drinks it, and goes home and knocks his kids around, or his wife, (before she got sick of it and left.) He makes his kids wish they could leave. The next morning he doesn't even remember what he did. With a five dollar bill, Andy and the guys bought a six-pack of beer. They ended up buying five dollars worth of death. It seems like all a five spot can do is buy trouble, so I'd get rid of five dollar bills. So, to make my world better, I'd get rid of peanut butter, bandaids, and five-dollar bills.

Using the homework assignment that Gerald wrote as a guide, write a persuasive paper that includes an introduction, three support paragraphs, and a conclusion. You can use one of the ideas below, or you can choose your own:
  • "Three problems I wish I could solve."
  • "The three things that annoy me the most."
  • "Three things I wish teachers understood."

Write a character sketch of Monty-what made him unique-his personality, his charm, his love of life. Use specifics from the book to illustrate your points.


Dear Saundra, Well, how is California treating you? Do you like it any better since you moved? My dad won't let me call you long distance any more since we talked all night last month. The bill came to over $200.00 and he was ready to kill me.

Even after that great Thanksgiving meal we had yesterday, he wouldn't give in. He just does not understand that when your best friend moves 3000 miles away, you just have to do a lot of catching up. I've got so much to tell you--just wait until you hear what happened at school.

Two weeks ago, right after a basketball game, Robbie Washington got killed in a car accident. It was awful. Andy Jackson was driving, and B.J. Carson and Tyrone Mills were also in the car. Those three got out OK, but Robbie, he got burned to death cause the car blew up or something. Everybody at school was crying and they had this special memorial service for Rob. Then these people from downtown called "grief counselors" came to talk to us. We were supposed to "share" our sorrow with them. Yeah, right. Mostly they sat around and looked concerned and smiled a lot. What seemed to help us the most, it seemed to me, was us talking in small groups with our friends and some of the teachers. It's going to be rough getting over this. Hardly any of us ever knew anybody who had died before. You kinda figure if you're 17, you'll live forever. But Robbie didn't. That scares me.

Write a personal letter to a friend that includes details about a school event and your personal observations about the event.


Read the poems from December 20 in the novel. Choose one of them and write your own in that style. You may use any topic of your choosing that seems to fit the themes or ideas in the book.
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Confusion
  • Misunderstanding
  • Pain
  • Loss
  • Hope

The Queen, my Lord, is dead.

She should have died hereafter.
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
and then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

The passage above comes from the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare. The teacher in Tears of a Tiger uses this passage, and it upsets Andy so much he runs out of the classroom. Write what you think Shakespeare was saying in this passage about life and death, and how the lines in this quote apply to Andy's life and the themes of the novel.

The Hazelwood Trilogy

Tears of a Tiger

Forged by Fire

Darkness Before Dawn