Study Guide

Tears of a Tiger

By Sharon M. Draper

Tears of a Tiger Introduction

Can one night change your entire life?

We can almost see it now… a lifetime supply of donuts, all thanks to one lucky lottery ticket. But for Andy Jackson, instead of changing for the good, life suddenly takes a turn for the terrible after he and his buddies decide it's a good idea to celebrate their high school basketball game victory with a couple of beers. And then Andy gets behind the wheel, only to crash and kill his best friend, Robbie. Now Andy has to deal with the guilt of causing the accident that killed his friend, and his life will most definitely never be the same.

Tears of a Tiger made a splash when it was first published in 1994 because it deals with hot-button issues like drunk driving, teen suicide, and depression. Author Sharon Draper even won a slew of awards for the book, including the ALA Best Book for Young Adults and the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for an outstanding new book.

Before writing her first novel, Draper was a teacher, so she knows firsthand the day-to-day struggles that teens face. Because of this, Tears of a Tiger also reflects how teens think and talk. And you know what this means? It means that this story, despite its difficult subject matter, goes down pretty easily. But don't take our word for it: The millions of copies published and the trilogy that ensued are proof in their own right.

What is Tears of a Tiger About and Why Should I Care?

As you're probably aware, teens drink. Yes it's against the law, but breaking rules aside, there are a whole lot of other bad things that result from this. And Tears of a Tiger takes a long, hard, and often super-painful look at one of these very bad things: drinking and driving.

And this is why you should care about this book, Shmoopers. Whether you've snuck a beer before, are waiting until you're of age to take a taste, or are committed to a sober life, booze comes up in the teen years, and with it, so does the risk of finding yourself in a car with someone behind the wheel who absolutely shouldn't be.

You've probably been told to avoid this situation at all costs. You've probably also heard all sorts of scary statistics about teens and drinking and driving. But we're willing to bet that chances are decent you figure accidents happen to other people—you know, people you'll never know, people are who just faceless numbers. This is exactly what all of the characters in Tears of a Tiger do anyway… until one of their friends becomes one of these statistics and they can't stop putting a face to his number.

Tears of a Tiger is a cautionary tale, for sure, but one that hangs out in very real turf.

Tears of a Tiger Resources


Author Central
Everything you ever wanted to know about Draper and her books, from homework help to her biography.

Suicide Support
Suicidal thoughts happen to lots of people. If you or someone you know needs help, this website is here for you.

Articles and Interviews

Hazelwood High
An interview with the author about the trilogy that Tears of a Tiger launched.

Digging in with Draper
Draper discusses her life as an author. Guess what? She's terrified of water.


B.J's Prayer
A fan-made book preview that prominently features B.J.'s perspective in the book.

Musical Trailer
A student-made trailer for the film set to Cudi's "Day N Night."


We Got You Covered
Or the publisher does, anyway, with the front of Tears of a Tiger.

Novel Novelist
Draper in all her glory.