Set in Afghanistan during the final days of the monarchy to the present as well as in America, this highly depressing, yet very well written novel, tells the tale of two boys, Amir and Hassan who grow up in Kabul. Amir's father is a successful businessman and philanthropist and well liked by all. Hassan is a Hazara, a person who is of Mongol descent and considered inferior. He and his father, Ali are the servants of Amir and his father. Ali and Amir's father, Baba grew up together like brothers in the same household. Amir and Hassan are friends but in a weird way. Some may not even call it a friendship. He only plays with Hassan when there was no one else around and he never lets Hassan play with his other friends. When Hassan doesn't know the definition of a word he gives him the opposite definition of the word. He would read to Hassan and since Hassan couldn't read he would change stories and make up something on the spot and Hassan never knew the difference. When he began to write his own stories, Hassan was the first person he read them to. Hassan, a sweet boy, accepted all of this was a kindness and grace and innocence. He rarely saw the cruelties Amir put him through.
Amir and his father had a strained relationship. Amir's mother died in childbirth and in a way his father blamed him for it perhaps. Also, Amir was not athletic like he was. Amir preferred the world of books and writing stories which his father didn't understand. Also, Amir did not know how to stand up for himself and fight. He was protected by his father's name for the most part by the bullies. But one day he and Hassan are accosted by the worst bully there was: Assef, whose parents were each German and Afghanistan. He believed Hitler was right and that ethnic cleansing needed to take place which meant the Hazaras had to go. But he was there that day with his two friends and his brass knuckles to deliver a beating to Amir. However, Hassan stops him with his trusty slingshot by threatening to take out his eye with a rock if he doesn't back off. Assef leaves them alone but vows that he will get them back for this someday.
The day of the big kite race, Amir cuts down his share of kites our of the sky and is the last kite flying. Hassan, the kite runner, goes after the last kite to fall in order to truly make them champions and Hassan is a master kite runner. After Amir puts his kite away he goes in search of Hassan and at first cannot find him but when he does he wishes he hadn't. Assef and his two boys have cornered him in an alley with the kite. He says that he'll let Hassan go if he'll give him the kite. Hassan says no. They beat and then rape Hassan while Amir watches and does nothing. Amir runs off before being detected and "runs into" Hassan in the streets farther down. Neither boy says anything about what happened. Hassan has no idea that Amir saw. All Amir had earlier been able to think about was getting that kite to his father and finally having his father be proud of him. Now that is tainted.
Amir can't sleep and when he does he has nightmares. He can't handle being around Hassan anymore. It makes him feel guilty and he wants Hassan to punish him for not doing anything. This is when Hassan figures out that he was there. Amir desperately wants Hassan to leave so he doesn't have to deal with his guilt anymore. So he plants his watch and some money under Hassan's pillow and says that Hassan stole it. Baba brings in Ali, Hassan, and Amir to talk about it and Hassan confesses to the stealing. Baba had told Amir that stealing is the worst thing you could possibly do, but when faced with this he says that he will let it slide this time. But Ali tells him that they are leaving. Hassan has told Ali everything, including what Amir has done and seen. Baba is heartbroken and begs them to stay but Ali will not be swayed.
Pretty soon the Soviets invade the country and Amir and Baba escape from Kabul to Pakistan and then the United States where they begin a whole new life. But Afghanistan is not done with Amir. His father's old business partner and the man who often offered him fatherly advice and an ear to listen, Rahim Khan, contacts him about Hassan and a chance to redeem himself for that one day.
Amir is a hard person to like, while you cannot help but love Hassan and wonder why he remains so blindly devoted to Amir. Amir is a bit of a spoiled brat with a weak character who lies easily. Hassan is open, honest, and loyal and would do anything for those he cares about. Also, the number of depressing things that happen in this book are pretty numerous. It is a dark book about a dark time in Afghanistan's history, but not all of the sad things happen in Afghanistan. They happen in America too. I will tell you this, though. It does not have a depressing ending. You will not throw this book at your wall when you finish it if you make it that far. It is a very well written book so I'm not telling you to not read it. Just go in with eyes open.