Robbie Washington, captain of our basketball team, was killed after the November 7 game in a terrible automobile accident…”
…and Andy was the one driving the car. Drunk. He didn’t mean for it to happen. He didn’t want anyone to get hurt, especially not his best friend. They were just having a bit of fun after the game. Now Andy has to live with the memory and the guilt of Robbie’s death.
He’s not sure he’s up to it.
This is an emotionally charged story, and one I didn’t necessarily enjoy. There aren’t any surprises in it. I guessed from page one how it would end, but the telling is very unique. Ms. Draper doesn’t give us a straight forward narrative. In fact, there’s no narration at all. It’s a collection of essays, letters, news articles, and dialogue, but it gets the job done. The aftermath of the accident is brilliantly related, with all the grief, questions, guilt, and nightmares that naturally follow. To me, an adult, all the drama felt like overkill, but I’m not the primary audience. This one is written for teens. Though the book is almost twenty years old, I think they will still find it relevant, engaging, and eye-opening.
But there’s a second major theme in this one. Andy is black, and he struggles to succeed in a white world. In fact, he equates success with white and therefore doesn’t really pursue it at all. This, again, felt very foreign to me. I, like Andy’s parents, wanted to lecture him to get his grades up. Come on! Make something of yourself! But I’ve never been laughed at by my peers for getting an A or been followed through a store by a suspicious clerk. I don’t have any idea what it’s like to be a black kid. Ms. Draper, an African American woman and a high school teacher for many, many years, has a much better grasp of the situation. And she does a fine job relating it. I simply struggle with the receiving.
In conclusion, Tears of a Tiger was a stretcher for me. A perspective I’m not accustomed to. It was good for me to read it, but I’m not in a hurry to read the rest of the trilogy. It’s definitely a thinker for teens, however. I’d recommend it on the strength of Ms. Draper’s writing and on the message she gets across. I’d give this one a 13+ recommendation due to the heaviness of the subject and the teen culture that’s related, but it is cleanly written with the exception of one mild profanity. A great discussion starter and a warning to kids to think about the consequences before you act.