Here's a question I was asked in a comment on yesterday's post: "do you think it's possible to do grim and gritty YA fantasy (on a Joe Abercrombie level)?"
I'm not the best person to ask--I've never read Joe Abercrombie, I'm don't much care for grim and gritty (I read almost no "urban fantasy"), and I'm not entirely sure what constitutes "gritty" anyway. I looked it up--Merriam Webster says"having strong qualities of tough uncompromising realism." But since I'm not sure what "realism" means, exactly, when you are talking about fantasy and science fiction, I don't feel all that much more secure...
But regardless, here are some books that I think are rather outstanding examples of grim and gritty YA science fiction/fantasy, books in which there is little comfort to be found, and no easy answers:
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.
The Knife of Never Letting Go, and its sequels, by Patrick Ness.
Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth and its sequel, by Carrie Ryan.
I note, however, that the questioner wanted fantasy specifically, so the first three mightn't count, and I think I fail. And even though there are lots of YA dystopian books out there, they really aren't all that grim and gritty (and they are mostly sci fi). Like Birthmarked, for instance, which I reviewed yesterday. It was rather a pleasant read, as dystopias go, and not without hope and likable characters for whom one could (just about) imagine happy ever afters...
Here are the suggestions from commentors (thanks, mb, Kate, Angie, Penthe, Chachic and Michelle)
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Magic or Madness and sequels by Justine Larbalestier
The Devil in the Road by Robert Westall.
Holly Black's Modern Faerie Tales trilogy, particularly Valiant.
White Cat, by Holly Black
Margo Lanagan's books.
The Boneshaker, by Kate Milford
Charlie Fletcher's Stoneheart trilogy
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman