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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!