Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

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.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Night Kites is one of Kerr's seven books that take place in Seaville, New York. While the Sweet Mouth and the Surf Club are only...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Kerr is a very popular writer among young adults because she writes about themes that are current, that address the complexity of life, and...

(The entire section is 493 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Night Kites has some aspects which may be of concern to some readers or parents. There is a pending death of a likeable character;...

(The entire section is 616 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Night Kites provides an excellent opportunity for an in-depth discussion of AIDS and its effect on human lives. Discuss the facts...

(The entire section is 290 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Write an essay explaining the relationship between the title Night Kites and the themes and characterization in the book.


(The entire section is 276 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

We first meet Charlie Gilhooley in I'll Love You When You're More Like Me when he decides to come out of the closet and publicly...

(The entire section is 146 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Kingsbury, Mary. "The Why of People: The Novels of M. E. Kerr." Horn Book (June 1977): 288-295. An article which reviews most of...

(The entire section is 139 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Kerr, M. E. Blood on the Forehead: What I Know About Writing. New York: HarperCollins, 1998.

Kerr, M. E. Me, Me, Me, Me, Me: Not a Novel. New York: Harper & Row, 1983.

The M. E. Kerr and Mary James Web site.

Meaker, Marijane. Highsmith: A Romance of the Fifties. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 2003.

Meaker, Marijane. “Marijane Meaker.” In Something About the Author. Vol. 20, edited by Anne Commire. Detroit: Gale, 1980.

Nilsen, Alleen Pace. Presenting M. E. Kerr. Updated ed. New York: Twayne, 1997.

Sutton, Roger. “A Conversation with M. E. Kerr.” School Library Journal 39, no. 6 (June, 1993): 24-29.