This book was crucially character and perception-shaping for me when I first read it in sixth grade. Harsh, realistically poignant, and impactful--I credit this book with instilling in me a prudent but intense suspicion of anything 'utopian.' For all the story's bleakness and probing look at opression, the ending was both harrowing and satisfying.
Due to the content, I would not recommend it for children younger than 12, and advise parental participation in it's exploration. But I believe it to be too important to society to be missed out on.