Literary Criticism and Significance
Sharon Draper's Tears of a Tiger was first published in 1994 and remains a popular work because of its focus on relevant teen issues—drinking and driving, parent-child conflict, depression, and academic struggles. Listed as one of the top 100 books for young adults for the millennium, the novel also won the prestigious Coretta Scott King Award (1995) and the ALA Best Book Award for Young Adults (1995).
While Draper's realistic characters and gripping plot will certainly appeal to most young-adult readers, her choice to write each chapter in a different style elevates her work beyond that of a typical teen-angst novel. Draper switches from newspaper excerpts to letters to dialogue to class assignments to phone calls, making it possible to view the aftermath of the tragic crash from a variety of complex perspectives. Thematically, Draper explores and undermines stereotypical views of the African-American teen. One of Andy's teachers has low expectations and cannot believe that Andy could do so well on a test. Even Andy tries to live up to what he thinks an African-American male in high school should be: an athlete who jokes around in class and does not care about his grades. Throughout the novel, Draper provides positive examples of African-Americans who are successful and admirable—Andy's psychologist and many of Andy's friends—to show Andy that he can expect more from himself.
While Tears of a Tiger is the first book that Draper wrote and published in her Hazelwood High trilogy, it is not the first chronologically. After the success of Tears, Draper went back in time with Forged by Fire, the second novel of her trilogy, to tell Gerald's story. The third novel, Darkness Before Dawn, answers questions that Draper's readers had about the future of B.J., Tyrone, Keisha, and Rhonda.