This is absolutely NOT for children under 14, and even then, great discretion should be used. No one, not even an adult, should be required to read this book. Anybody who is even slightly depressed has no business reading it. The book is incredibly depressing, the wounds of mother and daughter after a fire are graphically described in literally nauseating detail, and the literary merits of the book are questionable in spite of its Newbery Award. The ending is contrived. A new woman in the dad's life cannot possibly fix all that is wrong with this family as the author implies. The dad goes on a drinking binge while the mom lies dying, hardly acceptable material for young readers. The girl runs away; again, not acceptable for young readers. Everywhere the girl turns, she is haunted by the memory of her dead mother and brother, whom she accidentally killed. My 4th-grade son said that if he accidentally killed me like Billie Jo killed her mother in the book, he would kill himself. Besides making him think about suicide, this book has given him nightmares for over a week, every night since they started reading it in class and got to the part where the fire occurred, and he now refuses to go to sleep alone.