Sharon Draper uses Andy Jackson's character to illustrate the progression of depression, especially in a teenager, and to note how seemingly easy it is for those connected to a depressed individual to miss or ignore the signs of deep depression. While Andy's parents recognize early on that Andy needs professional help, they do not follow up with the psychologist or try to talk to Andy themselves. The novel contains just two conversations between Andy and his parents, and the conversations further demonstrate how disconnected the family is. Andy's coach, psychologist, girlfriend, and teachers all note to themselves or to others that Andy is depressed, but no one knows how to help him or takes decisive action to do so. Andy, like many who deal with grief, learns to mask his pain by cracking jokes and pulling pranks. When he finds the courage to reach out to someone for true help, he cannot get in touch with anyone who he believes cares about him. Draper's discussion of Andy's depression urges school officials and family members to be proactive and relentless when it comes to helping someone who is grieving.

Parent-Teen Relationships
As an African-American teen, Andy cannot relate to his parents and believes that they do not care to relate to him. He tells Dr. Carrothers that his mom can barely bring herself to come to his games because she is so involved with her sorority activities, and Andy's conversation with his dad about the origin of his name makes Andy believe that he and his dad will never have the same goals or understand one another. Draper also includes comments about or by Gerald, another Hazelwood teen, which reveal that Gerald is abused by his alcoholic stepdad. For Gerald, school is an escape from his troubled home relationship. Draper's characterization of the relationship between a teen and his or her parents realistically describes normal teen angst coupled with African-American generational conflict.

African-Americans and Education
All of the main characters featured in the novel are African-American, and through Andy's...

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