Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Night Kites introduced AIDS as a subject to be explored in fiction for young adults. In 1986, when this book was published, information about AIDS was not very accessible. The presentation of AIDS within the context of homosexuality and promiscuity is consistent with the time period in which this novel was written; because Pete contracted AIDS, it was assumed that he was gay and had been promiscuous. While this assumption can no longer be made in the light of the universality of the AIDS epidemic, it does not deter from the overall effectiveness of the novel. By focusing on the events in Erick’s life that were caused by, or affected by, his brother’s illness, M. E. Kerr has created a coming-of-age story that continues to be relevant for young adults.

Night Kites, like many of Kerr’s other novels, depicts events that influence the movement of the protagonist from adolescence to adulthood. Her novels do this by presenting both adult and adolescent characters who are realistic and well-rounded. Since many novels for young adults focus on the earlier stages of adolescence, with adult characters who are untrustworthy or stereotypical, Kerr’s novels, regardless of topic, continue to have an important place in young adult literature.