Kite Runner & For Whom the Bell Tolls


My daughters Sophmore (HS) English teacher is offering parents the choice of these two books for the next assignment. Anyone have feedback on either?



If Khaled Hosseini’s ‘Kite Runner’ is just half as good as his ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ (which must also be one of the great tear producers of recent years) it would be well worth reading at that sort of age. The insight that he brings as an Afghani-American to such an alien culture and the lives and tragedies of people living in/struggling with it is profound.


I just finished reading The Kite Runner recently, and it was very good. I’ll say, though, that it does have some very upsetting scenes, including rape of a child by another child and sexual abuse of a child by adults. It’s not lengthy or gratuitous, imo, but it’s enough to stay with you. It’s also got a scene describing a stadium execution by the Taliban and other scenes of violence.


Gosh both terrific choices! I wouldn’t have a problem with my daughter reading either. You may want to read along and discuss at home as well. Maybe she’ll read the other one over the summer then.

I’m surprised that when you tell of the content of Kite Runner that you can still say it’s appropriate for a teen. I’m trying to maintain her innocence (as though that’s possible in this world) and certainly her chastity, even by way of thought. It sounds to me like the images from the Kite Runner at least would be disturbing and rob her of her appreciation for the sanctity of the marital embrace.

I don’t know much if anything about the subject matter of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Can anyone give me a quick synopsis?


There is a rather lengthy synopsis of For Whom the Bell Tolls here:

Yes its Wikipedia


But that was why precisely why I gave you those particulars, because it may render the book inappropriate for your teenager.:shrug:

I said it was a good book, and it is, but I’m an adult and that was my adult perception.

Sorry if I wasn’t more clear.


Sorry Michelle,

I didn’t mean to sound dismissive of your endorsement, it’s just that I really am more interested in it’s appropriateness for a teen. I guess some of what I’m going though is trying to change my view of what’s appropriate even for me, as an adult, to watch and read. I’ve been coming to realize that as much as I enjoy the various crime shows on TV (or from your description, the book Kite Runner), that doesn’t make it something good for me, or as a mom, more importantly for my daughter to read / watch.

I’m coming to realize that I need to be more cautius of the garbage I put into my head or allow my daughter to put into hers.

I’ve heard much said lately about the movie Golden Compass (I especially liked listening to Steve Woods discussion on the subject) and the books on which it is based. It’s really made me think that I need to find books that my daughter will enjoy and that are good for her at the same time (and yes, we have read the entire Potter series, I guess time will tell on that one).

Perhaps I’m becoming overly cautious (more in theory than in practice, at this point), but I’m really trying to figure out what is God’s Will in all this, what is the path that will lead my daughter to carry her Catholicism into adulthood. How can I help form her view of the world as she is beginning to become an adult? I want her to see relationships as something beautiful and special, a message she will not get from the mass media. I want her to know, love and strive to serve God, also something the culture does not reinforce. I don’t want her to develop calouses against the ugliness that can be found in the world. I don’t want her to take sin for granted.

I want her to have virtue and to strive to live her life according to God’s will.

And I guess I’m beginning to see that what books she reads plays a role, an important role, in how she sees the world as she begins to mature into a young woman.


It is admirable that you want to follow the Will of God in this. Here is my two cents. As a young man who, at first, had his reading materials controlled then later was given choice and responsibility, I can safely say the latter was more beneficial. If my parents saw me reading something they thought wasnt good for me, then they said so, but left the choice up to me. I dont think that I had innocence taken by reading harsh material.

It depends on your child, and if you feel she is responsible enough to make those choices…as an eighth grader, I was reading material well beyond my age, and have not come off any worse.

Actually, I think the Trilogy of the Lord of the Rings was an excellent set of books. There were battles, hence violence, but it wasn’t a graphic sort of violence that would leave her numb to violence in the real world.

There are a couple of “Catholic Novels” I’ve found that I’ve shared with her that were love stories where the couple courted rather than dated, such that when they met they were old enough to begin considering looking for a spouse (one couple was slightly older, the other she was just finished with college) and they acknowledged that they were getting to know one another for the possible purpose of finding a spouse. I don’t remember the titles of the books, but I actually enjoyed reading them myself, because having grown up in the late 70’s, the concept of not simply dating for the fun of dating was new to me.

I’d really like her to learn the skills necessary and have the intent of saving her heart, body and soul for God and her husband alone.

Another series of books that I think were great were The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, something my sister turned me onto when I was younger.

A series I enjoyed when I was young and which she has also enjoyed was the Wrinkle in Time and the subsequent novels by Madeline L’Engle.

She’s currently re-reading the Anne of Green Gables stories, books she read as a young girl.

Some books I’ve heard good things about but have not read are the science fiction books by argh, I’m blanking on his name, the author of “Mere Christianity”. I’ve got 2 of the 3 books, so once I’ve got the 3rd, it will rise to my to-do list.

But I’d like more stories that are timely and yet not worldly, that are mature but not immodest, that have action but don’t numb her to the beauty of humanity.

I’ve tried to encourage her to read “The Screwtape Letters” but she said she had difficulty getting into it. I’d like her to read the old classics “Purgatorio”, “Paradisio” and “Inferno” but she’s turned up her nose at them. I’ve given her “How to choose a good husband” (don’t recall the Catholic author), and she has “Pure Love” (I think Jason Everest wrote it), both of which I believe she’s read.

She’s amazingly good, as far as daughters go. At nearly 16, she’s still extremely respectful of both her father and me. She makes good choices and she obeys us (as far as I’ve been able to tell).

I just want to be certain I’m doing my part and helping her by putting the right things into her head (to what extent I can).


I think it’s admirable that you want to be cautious as a parent.

My parents made sure what I watched and read was appropriate even through high school the best they could. Not in a dictatorship, but in a loving and protecting way.

I can say this: thanks to them, I am not desensitized to the horror and violence that comes out in books, movies, etc.

And I thank them VERY much for it because they did give me freedom in areas they knew it was safe (and usually with the right guidance). God Bless you.


Thank you so much for your words of encouragement! I often feel very alone with my concerns about what she is exposed to.

Thanks & God Bless,

Carol Marie

My endorsement for the books comes because they are in fact NOT popular media and do not include sex or violence for titilation. I would never suggest that your daughter read them without you (or another trusted adult) being ready to discuss them with her. Both of the books cover real world situations and because they are historical, she can also find out more about the situations and what the different groups involved did and said. Reading and discussing books like this is a wonderful way of delving into the whys behind Church teaching and our beliefs.

The author of The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity is CS Lewis and he did write a science fiction type series as well.

Dante is very difficult and not something she’d probably get into as a high school sophmore.

She may find Jane Austen’s books fun to read. They can also take a bit of getting used to because the historical ‘voice’ and mannerisms are different than what we are used to.

I suggest you find a copy of Honey for a Teen’s Heart and look at the suggestions there.

While it may not be for a young teenager, I certainly would not call a book like The Kite Runner garbage. It’s a very good and moving story. I’m currently reading it.
I’m 22. My mother taught me at home and I can thankfully say that she did not make me read only religious books. I read religious books, but others as well. I remember reading a book about missionaries that had some pretty graphic scenes involving killings. But it was a true story, and it was an incredible book.
I think the worst thing a parent can do is to be too strict with their childrens reading. To only a loow your child to read religious books can, in my opinion, do more damage than anything.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit