A couple of things.
First, several of you mentioned www.commonsensemedia.org and I wanted to third/fourth/fifth that recommendation. It's a website that gives basic age ranges for things like TV shows, movies, books and apps but more importantly it tells you exactly what informs these ranges so you can decide for yourself whether something is appropriate for your specific kid. It is extremely useful and if I had checked it before renting Big Hero 6 I would have seen the following:
"One of the film's main themes is about coping with grief, as the main character's beloved older brother (his only immediate family) tragically dies early in the film; Hiro's sadness may be hard for sensitive kids*. Another near death is very upsetting, and there are sometimes-intense confrontations between the movie's scary supervillain and the protagonists that injure but don't kill people."
Very helpful. Also, you quickly realize that every movie we watched as middle schoolers was wildly inappropriate - remember when we got Ghostbusters for Patrick's fourth grade movie party only to discover that a ghost performs fellatio halfway through? Yeah, well, a pre-check with commonsense media might have prevented that remote control injury.
Second, Patrick asked me to get him a real book at the library. I'll go ahead and put that in quotation marks because he said it, but also to convey the emphasis. He wants a "real" book.
I asked him if he had anything particular in mind and he said no. I asked him if he could explain his definition of "real" to me in any meaningful way and he said no, he wasn't sure, he just wants to read something... real.
So I thought I would throw it out to you with a few explanatory notes:
1. I am quite certain he does not mean real solely in terms of nonfiction (I got him The Mathematical Secrets of The Simpsons for Christmas - huge hit. highly recommended for a math person in your life. probably not the actual title but you can google it)
2. They have just read Call of the Wild in class and I think he was struck by the difference in substance between the fiction he is used to reading (say Divergent or something similar) and a Jack London. Not that he told me this; I'm just guessing.
So the first books that sprang to my mind were by Dickens but I rejected those almost immediately. I've always liked Dickens personally but... no. So then I thought: The Outsiders, The Diary of Anne Frank and My Brother Sam Is Dead (none of which our library had shelved by the way.)
And then my mind went blank.
So, an adolescent asks you to recommend a "real" book. You say... ?
*I forgot to finish my asterisk! Sorry. I was just amused by this. I guess some children might be distressed by Hiro's sadness but it seems to me the really sensitive ones would start with Tadashi being blown to smithereens.