I did a great session last night at Loreto Mandeville Hall, talking to year 5, 6 and 7 girls and their mothers. It was heaps of fun, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves (I particularly enjoyed the home-made pink cupcakes and pink champagne).
A couple of the parents were asking me whether I thought their daughters were old enough to read my books, which is a question I get asked quite a bit. Here's my answer:
My mum never controlled what I read. There was nothing I wasn't allowed to read. In Grade 4, I read Lord of the Rings (I skipped a lot of the boring bits). In Grade 6 I read the Clan of the Cave Bear and its assorted sequels - complete with explicit sex scenes and 'throbbing members'. I don't think reading stuff I wasn't developmentally ready for damaged me in any way.
Reading is active. You have to physically engage your eyes and your brain in order to read. It's not like TV where it comes to you. Time and time again, studies have shown that if a child is uncomfortable with something they're reading - they'll put it down.
I'm not a parent, so I can only give my perspective as an ex-child, and as someone who knows a bit about reading and literature. I think if a young person wants to read a book - let them. If you are worried about some of the content in the book then make sure you read it as well, then talk to your kids about it. Parents should always talk to their kids about what they're reading. Talking about books is one of the great pleasures of being a reader.