Everytime I teach The Kite Runner I am always amazed and extremely pleased at how captivated my students are by the book. Without fail, there are always students who have been reluctant readers all year long (it's usually my last novel of the year) who come in, 1-2 weeks into our reading schedule, and have the novel finished. They walk up to my desk wide-eyed with tons of questions and ideas to put forward. I actually had an ESL student finish the book in a weekend! She said she barely slept all weekend because she just couldn't put it down.
What it is about The Kite Runner that grabs students and makes them want to read, rather than feel like they have to read? Do you know of any other books out there that have this impact on your students? Or, if you are a student, what other books have made you feel this way?
I think the themes and relationships are very relateable for high school students. They are all struggling to define themselves in light of the parental expectations and the role their friends play in their lives. Because this is the subject of the start of the novel, they are drawn in. Once Amir abandons his friend, they keep reading to see if redemption is possible and at what cost. There are some very satisfying (if convenient) story parallels that my students enjoyed, and while they were not completely happy with the final pages, they understand that Amir is really going to have to work hard and have patience with his half-nephew/son. The smile at the end gives them hope.
I started teaching The Kite Runner to a junior class a few years ago, and they were most drawn to Amir as the protagonist of the story. They found him a troubling character and were really annoyed by his inability to stand up for Hassan. They wanted him to redeem himself, and some accepted Amir's struggle by the end of the novel, yet many remained angry with the choices that Amir made.
After teaching The Kite Runner, most of my students make comments similar to your students' statements. Some admit that it is the only book that they have read completely for school. My students have told me that they enjoy the book because it is written in a modern style; it has a lot of suspense at the end of each chapter; the father/son conflict is relevant to many of them, and they like knowing more about Afghanistan since it is in the news so often.
Some other books that have been successful with my "non-readers" are Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels (primarily with male readers) and Freakonomics (I'm constantly looking for good nonfiction).
I agree with mshurn on this one, but also to add that I think the struggles and challenges of childhood that we can all identify with are played out in a very different world that we in the West have very little knowledge of helps. It identifies such issues as being universal to the human condition - the majority of us have a love/hate relationship with a best friend and have struggled or tried to work out how to gain the approval of a father, and to see these conflicts played out in a very alien and different backdrop makes us realise that we are not alone - we can intimately relate to these characters.
I think students are drawn into the novel through the two primary relationships with which they can most identify: the friendship between Amir and Hassan and Amir's troubled relationship with Baba. Kids understand Amir's sense of isolation and his terrible insecurity, despite the false front he puts up. They understand his abuse of his power over Hassan, and they understand and recognize (or admire) Hassan's basic sweet nature and unwavering loyalty. Kids, more than adults probably, identify with the complex cruelties of childhood. In Amir's relationship with his father, again I believe students identify with Amir's sense of not being appreciated for who he is and his longing for parental approval. Watching Amir struggle to grow up, find love, and achieve personal respect are very compelling for young people who share many of the same struggles, although in perhaps not so dramatic ways. It has to be said, too, that the novel is engrossing because the plot is also filled with action, suspense, and some great adventure.
Someone once told me that they learned more about the culture and ways of the Middle East from reading The Kite Runner than from any other source. I believe students agree with this, and they certainly relate to the tale of Amir and his past transgressions against his friend, Hassan. It gives a sympathetic view toward the people in a country where our military is fighting, and it shows that problems can be solved and lives can be altered through faith and acts of goodness.
As a grade 12 twelve student i recently read The Kite Runner. I think I truly became engaged in the novel when Amir was struggling to cope with betraying Hassan; more specifically, somewhere around where he throws the pomegranate at him. But than again, anti-heroic qualities in a relatable medium probably is not a typical fascination of grade 12 students
I have to also say that perhaps your students are truly motivated, because from surveys that I give former and present students, their attitude is not the same. Maybe the students have different values here in Korea, but their attitude towards reading is, for the most part, not one of joy, but rather a duty or obligation for the class.
Its universal themes are one of the most popular methods that draws readers into the novel and keeps them reading it up to the very end. This is common in great works of literature in that the ideas are easily interpreted and understood and also if it carries a great story, then even better,
I read the Kite Runner last year in my freshman English class. I personally love reading, but i have never been more captivated by such a book like the Kite Runner has. I am currently doing a literary based research paper for this novel and my topic is how the coming of age in the novel is similar to the coming of age in many parts of the world. I say this because of how Amir goes through so much hardships in Afghanistan. Problems in which i have seen in the mexican border. I think this is why i am so drawn to this book. If you have any resources that i could use, please reply back.