Night Kites was one of the first novels for young adults to deal with the issue of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). M. E. Kerr has woven the problems confronting a family that must cope with this devastating illness into a coming-of-age story of a young man struggling with his emerging sexual attraction for his best friend’s seductive girlfriend. Much of the action of the novel is set against the small town of Seaville, New York, which was “practically founded” by Mrs. Rudd’s family. The upper-middle-class setting of the Rudd home provides a striking contrast to Kingdom by the Sea, the motel owned by Nicki Marr’s father. Once a tourist attraction with rooms, a restaurant, and a pool named after the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, it now resembles a run-down amusement park.
Kerr weaves complex ideas and emotions into a simple, first-person narrative told from the viewpoint of seventeen-year-old Erick Rudd. In the second chapter, she provides readers with a foreshadowing of the contrasts that dominate this novel. Erick remembers a time when he was five years old and Pete was fifteen. Pete had made a special kite, a “night kite,” for Erick with battery lights strung around its edges. Night kites are different, Pete told Erick, and, like night kites, some people are different too.
Until his senior year in high school, Erick’s life had been uncomplicated: dates with his girlfriend, Dill; spending time with his best...
(The entire section is 486 words.)