Will sad books make my kid depressed?

With books such as The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza, Half a World Away, and My Name Is Not Easy, preteen fare sure can get dark. But if your kid is drawn to grittier stories, it doesn't mean he wants to act out the situations in the books. Everyone reads for different reasons -- choices are incredibly personal -- and reading is a way to learn about the world, experience new ideas, and even take a break from normal life.

Here are some ways to handle your kids being attracted to darker subjects:

Choose age-appropriately. Books for 10- to 12-year-olds can contain some grim stuff. But if the book is designed for this age range, in general it should be age-appropriate. Publishers categorize books into age ranges you can find on the back covers, though these ranges are usually pretty broad. You can check other sources, such as our ratings, or talk to your librarian. Don't go too much out of your kid's age range, because she may lack the context and understanding to grasp what she's reading the way a teenager would.

Talk about the issues. Kids at this age are eager to find out more about the world, especially what's going on with teenagers. Many 10- to 12-year-olds can't wait to get to the next phase -- or they just want to read about it. Take advantage of the "What Parents Need to Know" and "Families Can Talk About" sections of our reviews. These will familiarize you with a book's subject matter and arm you with discussion points so you can talk issues through with your kid. Our list of Coming-of-Age Books is for kids going through this phase.

Consider reading the book yourself. A surprising number of adults enjoy reading teen lit (you think 11 million copies of The Fault in Our Stars were bought by kids?). There are many advantages to diving into your kids' books: It may provide relief that the subject matter isn't as bad as you thought (sometimes the cover and the press exaggerate the drama to drive sales); it'll give you topics for conversation; and -- who knows? -- you might enjoy it!

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Comments

Teen, 13 years old written by WhyEvenBother

Depression is a mental health issue, and I wouldn't think sad books and movies would cause it. It might make them sad, and they might be hung up on the death of a character, but I don't think a book would make them depressed. I'm in my early teens and it's been months since I watched Death Note, I'm still not over the death of L. They might just be sad over something that happened in the book.
Kid, 11 years old

No. Not depressed. Maybe sad, but not deppressed. Depression is a mental illness and if your kid has it, talk to counselor.
Teen, 16 years old written by III

You might want to talk to your tween about sex first, but drugs and homelessness are safe. I would be very proud if my child is taking an interest in world issues at a young age. I would not recommend limiting their knowlege of the world to age group unless its REALLY heavy. Take full advantage of their curiosity spurt as the phase might not last too long. As for teens all of these are a given.
Kid, 11 years old

Hey, at least your kid will be well informed about these subjects so when the time comes to be learning about some of these in school, your child can be remembered as the special snowflake that explained to the whole class, what a condom is used for!
Teen, 13 years old written by Frostwing8369

It depends just how deep into those topics a book delves, but in general I think It's ok for a teen or tween to read about these topics. Sometimes you just have to trust their judgement. If I start reading a book and it's too explicit or depressing for me, I put it down and read something else. Plus, if you're worried you can always skim the book.
Teen, 14 years old written by ThatGamingGuy

I really wouldn't think that Joey Pigza swallowed the key is that inappropriate, but The Fault in our Stars, very much so.