The Kite Runner

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Kite Runner Book Poster Image
Brilliant, violent Afghanistan novel will enlighten teens.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 15 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Teens will learn about Afghanistan from the 1970s through 2001, including divisions between religious and political groups, and life in Kabul before and during the Taliban's rule. They'll also pick up some Farsi words and understand more about the experience of Afghani immigrants to the United States. The Kite Runner also presents geographical information about Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Positive messages

The Kite Runner points to the destructiveness of shame, and shows the good that results from forgiving others -- and yourself.

Positive role models & representations

The Kite Runner's full of flawed but important role models: Amir's father, Baba, seems noble and strong, but he disapproves of his son's emotional nature. Baba's business partner, Rahim Khan, encourages Amir's talent, but he keeps a big secret from his young friend. Amir avoids responsibility for his own mistakes well into adulthood, but he eventually shows courage and honor.

Violence

The Kite Runner's violent incidents are many and graphic: deaths by shooting, stoning, and suffocation; severe beatings; an attempted suicide. A young boy's homosexual rape is described in detail; the rapist later flaunts his power over another boy by fondling him in front of another adult. This author does not shy from detailed descriptions of blood, wounds, sickness, and fear.

Sex

The author describes romantic love and caring adults' desire for affection.

Language

Strong language includes multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "piss," "bastard," "prick." One use of "c--t."

Consumerism

Brands mentioned are Coke, Starbucks, and car makers Ford, Cadillac, and Toyota.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Adults drink whiskey and wine, and debate the religious morality of using alcohol. A soldier's  described as having become addicted to an unspecified "drug." Morphine and other pills are used for pain.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini tells the story of Amir, who grows up in Afghanistan during the 1970s and '80s, and eventually moves to the San Francisco Bay Area. Cultural prejudice and the political power shifts as the Russians invade and the Taliban later take over strongly affect Amir's relationships. The novel includes graphic descriptions of extreme cruelty and violence, including homosexual rape, murder, beatings, and a suicide attempt. Alcohol and drugs are used in appropriate ways, though the righteousness of drinking's part of religious discussions about Islam. This beautiful, moving novel deals with complex adult issues about religion, prejudice, forgiveness, and the nature of "goodness."

User Reviews

Educator and Parent Written byMomof5 October 22, 2014

The book was informative and engaging in the beginning feeling like a true story. When I got to the contrived end, I was reminded that I was reading fiction.

As an adult, I appreciated the awareness of a different culture, As a mother, I would not want my children to read this until they are an adult.
Teen, 16 years old Written bySkylyn May 2, 2014

Uncomfortable.

I did not feel comfortable reading this book at all. Very disturbing for sensitive kids, like myself. I would not recommend for kids under the age of 16. Even t... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bymovie freak15 January 22, 2014

Powerful book

I thought this book was incredibly well-written and powerful. Excellent! I really enjoyed it. There was some language though. Not exactly for kids.

What's the story?

In Khaled Hosseini's debut novel THE KITE RUNNER, Amir comes of age in 1970s Afghanistan. The son of a wealthy businessman, he grows up alongside Hassan, the son of his father's servant. Whereas Amir receives every advantage -- a fine house, extravagant gifts on his birthday, and a good education -- servile Hassan's illiterate and lives in a hut on the property of Amir's father, Baba. Amir's family members are Pashtuns, considered in their culture superior to Hazaras like Hassan and his father, Ali. Baba gives Hassan a lot of attention, which makes Amir competitive for his father's affection; when other Pashtun boys are around, Amir sets himself above Hassan, teasing him and shunning him. However, when it's just the two of them, they play together often, frequently running kites -- a sport where kite fighters try to cut each other's string, and boys run to catch the loose kites. When Amir wins a kite fight, Hassan runs to catch the last kite that Amir beat. After Hassan finds the second-place kite, some cruel boys find Hassan, and Amir witnesses something that affects his self-worth and his life path from that moment on.

Is it any good?

This riveting book will certainly encourage teens to look at their world and "goodness" in new ways. Khaled Hosseini's debut created controversy among Afghan readers; the novel portrays Pashtuns as prejudiced toward Hazara people and treating them with degradation. The racial and religious extremism in the novel's certainly upsetting; the violence is horrifying. But the characters in The Kite Runner are beautifully realized, and their story's unforgettable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Familes can talk about how Afghan people are portrayed in The Kite Runner. Is it different from the way you see them in the media? Did your perception of them change from reading the book?

  • What role does religion play in Amir's life? How does this compare with your life and your friends'?

  • Does this story make you want to learn more about Afghanistan's recent history? Khaled Hosseini's other novels, A Thousand Splendid Suns and And the Mountains Echoed, are a great place to start.

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