Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In Night Kites, seventeen-year-old Erick Rudd experiences sudden changes in his life when he leaves his longtime girlfriend to begin a relationship with the unconventional Nicki, who has been dating Erick’s best friend, Jack. At the same time, Erick learns that his older brother Pete is gay and dying of AIDS and discovers that friends, neighbors, and even relatives will begin to avoid their entire family out of ignorance about the ways in which AIDS can be contracted. Interestingly, Kerr noted in an interview in School Library Journal that when she wrote the book, she did not expect that AIDS would continue to be an ongoing social and medical problem.
One of the most effective elements in Night Kites is the parallel Kerr draws between the homosexual lifestyle that Pete felt he had to keep hidden for so many years, and Erick’s belief that he should keep his new relationship with Nicki a secret from his family. This parallel allows Erick to understand the isolation and loneliness that secrets and lack of acceptance can bring. As in other Kerr novels, Erick is also disappointed in many of the people around him: Pete for not revealing his homosexuality to Erick until his disease forces the issue, his parents for not accepting Pete’s homosexuality as well as Erick thinks they should, and Nicki for her fickleness in dropping Erick once the family’s secret is out.
While some aspects of Night Kites may seem...
(The entire section is 304 words.)
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"Night kites are different. They don't think about the dark. They go up alone, on their own, and they're not afraid to be different."
One of Kerr's many trademarks is that she gives no easy answers to the intricate problems in the lives of her characters, nor does she offer any lulling conclusions. Seventeen-year-old Erick Rudd should be in the prime of his life: He is a senior in high school; he is going steady with his long-time girlfriend; his best friend has a new girlfriend that he really likes; and he has a good relationship with his parents and his older brother. Suddenly, Erick's life is not what he thought it was or what he wants it to be.
Erick's life starts to fall apart shortly after he meets Nicki Marr, his best friend's girl. He is attracted to her, she excites him in a way that his long-time, steady girlfriend Dill does not. It is obvious that Nicki is pursuing him, but he keeps his distance because he does not want to hurt Dill or Jack. But when Erick finds out that his older brother Pete has AIDS, he gives up his resistance and lets Nicki comfort him. Nicki represents a safe, yet exciting escape. She does not know his family, nor does she want to be included in family functions, so he does not have to worry about taking her home to meet his family. With Nicki he can forget that his brother is gay and dying; he can forget that his father will not let anyone know that his brother is gay and dying; and he can forget that his...
(The entire section is 777 words.)