Before we can answer this question, we need to ask a bigger question. Who are YA books for? Is the intended audience teens, or is it the flocks of adults who whip out their credit cards whenever Sarah J. Maas publishes a new book? Some research suggests that as many as 55% of all young adult fiction readers are adults. Teens are busy and loaded down with required reading from their teachers. It makes sense that so much of the YA market is built by adults with fewer restrictions on their lives.
When I look back at my teen years, I rarely had the opportunity to read for fun. There was always a book in my hand, but it was usually on the syllabus for an AP class. The one book I remember reading for pleasure was “Say Goodnight Gracie” by Julie Reece Deaver. I enjoyed it so muchthat it is no wonder I sought out YA fiction as soon as I was the master of my own free time.
My hope is that the so-called “gatekeepers” of KidLit, teachers, librarians, parents, and publishers, remember that YA fiction should offer books for every reader. There needs to be diversity in content, just like there is diversity in humanity.
Who knows? Maybe a sixteen-year-old struggling with an addiction to meth could find inspiration in clean fiction. Perhaps the grittiness of dark fiction helps everyone gain empathy. The important thing is to encourage reading. So go ahead and explore the YA fiction section with abandon. There is something there for everyone.