Although the story is told simply through first-person narration by its seventeen-year-old protagonist, Night Kites is a complex novel with many subthemes: AIDS, sexuality, family issues, friendship, and maturity. These themes are explored through contrasts: adolescent heterosexuality versus homosexuality; upper-middle-class support and conflict among the Rudds versus the permissiveness of Captain Marr; belonging among the popular crowd versus the rejection of the loner; physical desire versus friendship; loving relationships that, under stress, either falter or grow stronger. Kerr has chosen to display unconventional behavior against a background of conformity, providing glimpses of the positive and negative aspects of both. She makes no overt value judgments; however, despite anxiety, anger, and conflict, family loyalty remains a clear theme throughout the book. The contrast between the conventional and the unconventional in this novel is symbolized by the “night kite” that Pete made for his younger brother. Most kites fly in the daytime, Pete says, but some go up in the dark. They go up alone, and they are not afraid to be different. Pete is a night kite, but Erick sees himself as cautious and conservative—definitely “the regular day kind” of kite.

As Erick interacts with the two significant “night kites” in the novel, Pete and Nicki, he learns much about himself and the important people in his life. Fleeing his father’s anger and confusion over Pete’s illness, Erick turns to the solace of a physical...

(The entire section is 631 words.)