Brutal, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful


Amir, an Afghani émigré, narrates his life's story. In the 1980s, he came to live in the United States. The story flashes back to the 1960s and 1970s when he lived in Kabul with Baba (his father); Hassan, who is a servant and his best friend; and Hassan's father. Desperate for his father's affection, Amir enters a kite-flying contest. When he wins, he sends Hassan to go get it for him. On the way to Amir, Hassan is stopped and Amir watches the brutal violence against his friend but does not interfere or save him. As the book continues, Amir's guilt about this and other traumas affect his perspectives.  Amir struggles to come to grips with his betrayal of Hassan, and he returns to Kabul after he learns of his friend's death. 

BTSYA Teen Reader (16): The Kite Runner is full of both hope and grief. Reading this book requires emotional maturity because of its themes of death, suicide, and poverty. It also deals with heavy emotions. The story showcases how family secrets can haunt someone, and how guilt can change a person. Somehow, throughout all of that, it manages to keep a hopeful tone for the future.

The story touches on friendship, betrayal, warfare, and race, but with a plot that is easy to follow. It is well-paced to keep the reader interested but without overwhelming them with detail. This is a book for young adults, and I read it for a high school class. This book is more fun to read when you’re able to discuss the events in the book with others, so reading it with a friend or two may be a great option.

BTSYA / Teen Reader (16): In Afghanistan, kite flying is a national sport, though it’s a little different than what you would probably expect. The goal is to cut other kites down using the string of your own kite, which has glass shards glued to it. Needless to say, it is a bloody sport. Kite flying is the least brutal thing in this novel.

Quick disclaimer: The Kite Runner is quite graphic, so for those who are more sensitive to certain topics like rape and violence, I suggest you tread with caution. Even so, you certainly won’t regret reading this novel, regardless of its violent topics. It has action, suspense, and most of all, amazing character development, especially Amir. Each and every single character is beautifully written into their role, and they each play important parts in developing the story, even if it may not seem that way at first. The plot twists leave you reeling and make for a captivating tale that is impossible to put down until you have reached the end.

This novel is sad and vicious at times. While violent events are essential to the story, that doesn’t make them any less awful to read. The book has a beautiful, recurring message that tugs at your heartstrings and leaves you in awe of what Khaled Hosseini was able to create. I think it goes without saying that I loved this novel. I only recommend it to mature audiences, the youngest of which *might* be 13. It is a great read for anyone, but those who have a love for historical fiction or a complex story with plot twists would especially love this as a gift. Regardless of whether you buy it or borrow it from the library, you’re not likely to regret the decision of giving this book a try.

BTSYA Teen Reader (17): Even if you know nothing about Afghanistan, Hosseini weaves a tale that is seductive and provides a glimpse of an unknown world. The dive into Afghan culture provides the reader information about not only the basis for the way the story will unfold but also how many people in that area experience life today and how it differs from life in America.

Betrayal and redemption come alive through the relationship between Amir and Hassan. Despite the powerful themes, the structure is problematic. Akin to a wobbly time machine, The Kite Runner fast-forwards and rewinds just as pivotal plot events are divulged. The separate events lack a strong, clear connection, and the reader may feel puzzled because the scenes in the narrator's life appear disoriented.

Teen Student Reader (16):   enjoyed the rawness and honesty of the friendship and loved how they not only introduced the hurt between two people with very different social statuses but also mended and atoned Amir's actions by adopting Hasan's child through adoption. If a reader is interested in reading about difficult friendships in foreign countries, this book would be a great read. I would give this a "buy" recommendation. This is definitely a book that can be read over and over again when needing a reminder of what friendships are really like.

BTSYA Adult Volunteer Reader (42):
The Kite Runner is an unfortunate story about a man who has lived with the guilt of betraying a friend.Khaled Hosseini delivers vivid storytelling. He does an excellent job presenting Afghan culture, the social divide, and the devastation of countless years of war. There are times when the story takes a dark turn and made it difficult to read (rape, murder, stoning, selling children, suicide, racial slurs, etc.). I did like that the story had a message of forgiving oneself. I also like that the ending leaves the reader feeling optimistic. This is a book for a mature reader, as it is very graphic, and some things are quite shocking. I would recommend it to readers 16 and older. Parental Discretion is advised.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Readers who like to "dig deep" into characters and their psyche will find Amir a fascinating person to follow. 

Content Awareness Factors:

The story includes profanity, graphic violence, and sexual assault. 

Type of Book:
This is a semi-autobiographical story set during the Afghanistan War.
Educational Themes:

There is a lot to unpack in this historical fiction novel. if your teen is reading this, we suggest you read it as well. This is a heavy story and they should have someone to talk with about it.

Afghani culture and the impact of the fighting is one set of discussions, but most of the discussion will most likely center around specific events and how the characters reacted to them individually and with each other. Relationship dynamics - the caste system, father-son relationships - are also key discussion points.  

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
16 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
15 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer ages: 16, 17. Teen Student Volunteer, reviewers' ages 16, 17, 42
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow. Powerful, but not a book you'll keep to read again.

Title The Kite Runner
Author Khaled Hosseini
Publisher Riverhead Books © 2013
ISBN 9781594631931
Material Paperback
Cost $12.27
Genres Family, Cultures & Tradition, Asia | Asian People
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