A friend of mine suggested I teach the book Tears of a Tiger by Sharon M. Draper. Her son had read it as an eighth grader at his Catholic school. I needed a contemporary setting for the last book of the year, so I ordered a classroom set before previewing (Orders had to be in by May of the year before). Risky, I know. After reading Tears of a Tiger during Spring Break, it was the book I was most worried about parent backlash. There is nothing really bad in the novel, but there are many borderline things. The locker room bantering (that is never acted upon), drinking, and a girl talks about how her boyfriend is a good kisser.
The gist of the book is a group of high schoolers who were drinking and the driver ends up killing his best friend. The book follows the aftermath through school assignments, short dialogues, newspaper clippings, etc. To counteract potential backlash, I had devised four sets of essay questions to be answered throughout the novel. All students were required to write with each set of essays a paragraph evangelizing to a character. They were able to choose a character, and then they had to share a bible story or verse and apply it to the character's life. I was blown away by the depth and sincerity of the responses. Many students chose to share in class. I was able to make the tie from their assignment to what they face every day at school (and will more so in high school).
Most of the students in the class felt Tears of a Tiger was the best book they read all year.
Author site can be found by clicking HERE. Draper's site also contains a list of awards Tears of a Tiger earned.