Title: Night Kites
Author: M.E. Kerr
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 216
Erick is having girl trouble. He has a girlfriend but finds himself drawn to his best friend’s girlfriend Nikki, who barely even tries to contain her flirtatiousness towards him. When they kiss and he loses his friend, Erick feels terrible, but things go from bad to worse when finds out his beloved older brother Pete has AIDS.
His parents go to great lengths to hide Pete’s AIDS and his homosexuality from other people in the community, and they can’t seem to accept that Pete doesn’t have that much time left. They also start becoming the targets of prejudice from people who are afraid of Pete’s illness.
Night Kites was published in 1986- pretty ballsy subject matter for that time period! Like the other book I read by M.E. Kerr (Deliver Us From Evie,) the gay sibling is much more likable than the main character. Pete is smart, compassionate, and willing to stand up to his dad’s bullshit. Erick, on the other hand, comes off as pretty weak and even though Nikki did make advances on him he still did choose to cheat with his best friend’s girlfriend.
He doesn’t really take responsibility and acts like he didn’t have any choice in the matter because Nikki used her feminine wiles. In fact, Pete is pretty much the only likable character in the book. I did like the way the book dealt with issues like internalized homophobia and was way ahead of its time.
The characters were flawed but believable and although I didn’t care about Erick’s relationship with Nikki at all, I really appreciated the tenderness of his bond with Pete. I also liked that the book didn’t end in the most obvious way (with Pete dying) but instead concluded on an intimate moment between the two brothers.
I was afraid the book would put too much focus on Nikki and Erick’s romance, but it turned out to be very much a secondary aspect of the story. Overall, I didn’t like this as much as Deliver Us From Evie but it still turned out to be an empathetic and thought-provoking read about family ties and the stigma of being gay and having HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s.