I was recently directed to this article that explores why a lot of award-winning and recommended or required books for children -- especially in late elementary and through middle school -- are so depressing and sometimes nightmare-inducing. The author noticed that her children were gearing themselves up for a required summer reading book, that her 12-year-old son wouldn't read those summer reading books without his door open and lots of lights on, and got to wondering why.
The article really got me thinking. I'm in the age range that she discusses, though perhaps old enough that I didn't get as much of a whallop -- and I know I didn't have the kind of required summer reading that kids have these days -- but I didn't read a lot of this kind of book. I only remember a few books like that, and I largely steered clear of the depressing ones by choice. Dicey's Song is the only one she discusses in the article that I read, and I remember it being melancholy, a book not to read unless in an appropriate mood, but not hopeless. But I have worked on an off in a bookstore since 1999, and have seen the summer reading lists come in, and I recognize a lot of the books she mentions.