Review: The Kite Runner (Graphic Novel) by Khaled Hosseini

Genre: Graphic novel

Similar to: Persepolis

Could be enjoyed by: Fans of graphic novels who want their stories to be a bit darker, more diverse and emotional

Publication date: 6th September 2011

Wowzers. I’d already read The Kite Runner when it first came out and although I remember thinking at the time what a good book it was, it didn’t really make a huge impact on me. However, reading the graphic novel was a completely different experience. Maybe it’s because I read it all in one go, maybe it’s because the pictures added an emotional depth and connection that I didn’t get as much of from the book or maybe it’s because it was basically a re-read but the result was that I LOVED IT.  

In case you don’t know, The Kite Runner is the story of Amir, who lives in wealthy Kabul in the 1970’s. He and his best friend Hassan dream of winning the local kite flying championship but a shocking and violent event leaves Amir with a difficult choice – whether to intervene to save his friend and possibly put himself in danger, or whether to walk away. Amir’s choice has major repecussions but due to the ever changing fortunes of the country that he loves, he is offered the opportunity of redemption. 

As I said, I really engaged with the graphic novel version of this story far more than the book. I loved the illustrations and the limited pallet used was immediately evocative of the Middle East. I liked how the story had been condensed but without leaving out any important bits – in fact, the pictures and narrative together gave me a much clearer idea of the story and really brought it to life. I thought this worked particularly well for the more violent parts of the storyline – you can describe a rape scene using the most graphic language that you want but to see a depiction of the look on the victim’s face and the blood on the back of his jeans is an image that will stay with me for a long time. 

It was this visceral imagery that really made me connect with the characters. You can completely understand the motivations of Amir and Hassan (they are only children after all) and although the events which take place are heartbreaking, it was the portrayal of their friendship that I felt so deeply moved by.  

I loved how the tension that was such a central part of the original book was retained in the graphic novel format and how the emotional storyline was portrayed. The Kite Runner is a really gripping book and I enjoyed reading about a totally different lifestyle and culture, despite the horrific events that were also depicted. I didn’t expect to be so moved by the graphic novel version of the story but the combination of great writing and beautiful illustrations really worked well for me. I actually think that I preferred it to the original book (or perhaps the combination of knowing the full story and then reading the graphic novel is what worked) as the more straightforward storyline was easier to follow and connect with.

This led me to think: have I just opened up to a whole new genre of graphic novels that I wasn’t previously aware of? Have I finally managed to strike a balance with re-reading, as a graphic novel version of a book that I’ve already read still feels like a new book (so no so-many-books-so-little-time guilt) but retains that familiarity of a story that you already know? Is this why you lot all love fairy story re-tellings?

Who knows. All I’m sure of is that I’ll definitely be looking up more of these types of graphic novels in the future – and I’ll definitely be recommending The Kite Runner graphic novel to everyone I know.

Rating: Four and a half heartbreaking Hassan quotes out of five.

Evocative, engaging and deeply emotional, The Kite Runner graphic novel is an unexpected treasure. 

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! I also read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #8 Read a comic written or illustrated by a person of colour.  

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