I think the problem is (and always has been) that books have two different classifications: Genre, and Age.
-- Science (Fiction)
I don't think, and never have thought "Young Adult" fits as a genre. For me it sits at the highest level to whom the content, whether it be novel, short story or poem, is aimed at. I don't think I'm wrong in this view, but perhaps the common person considers it a grouping of Fiction books (which is what you seem to have a problem with). I think they are wrong.
As I see it:
Type of content (Novel, Short Story)
- Age Target (children, Young Adult, Adult)
--- sub-genre (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical etc)
Libraries will clump their childrens and YA sections together, as a means of keeping the "kids" together. Perhaps that is where this "sub-genre" of YA was born - I've never agreed with that though, and while it hadn't been discussed before, it's how I always would have felt and described it as such were this conversation to happen 10 years ago.
As I see it, the elements of YA are based on topics that entertain, in a manner consistent with the delivery and understanding of the target audience, and allows the reader to associate to the characters and their plight.
As an adult, I am fully capable of associating with the concepts in young adult books. This is why books like Harry Potter can resonate with a wider audience (not that I'd let my son watch the movies - they are far too dark for his capacity to deal with fear at this time). Barring children though, the story and subsequent movies project common concepts and are easily digestible.
Conversely, as a young adult, I would NOT have been able to truly grasp the challenges of parenthood, for instance. I could reason and understand them conceptually, but having never experienced it there is no way I could be expected to understand a statement like "... and yet, though Bill knew his son had done wrong, he couldn't have been more proud of him."
That phrase can take on a completely different, and fundamentally deeper meaning for a parent that a young adult, or even non-parent, could not be expected to fully
understand. That isn't to say that those people have no capacity to get it, and it is only an example. I hope you get the gist of it, rather than getting caught up in preconceived notion. The idea is that the author is able to use a common connection to take a shorter route to their readers psyche, because they share that same understanding. It would be like two brothers giving each other a look. It's communication with less words, where the implied is understood without a full explanation (unlike this particular post of mine
YA, IMHO, is not just about censorship (edginess, range of topic); it is about being able to resonate with your audience, to speak to their level. As a parallel: "management-speak" is often mocked by employees as being full of themselves - when you've had to manage people there is a fundamental shift in thinking and it isn't generally people trying to sound important.
That is my last kick at this particular can in expressing why, when I say I'm looking forward to Ms. Rowlings next work as a way to connect to an adult book, that it isn't just
because I'm hoping for T&A, or a gorefest.