The author I've bought most books of this year - except for Elizabeth Bear - has been Sherwood Smith
with the novels published in her own worlds (she's been a long-time collaborator of some great names in the scifi genre and has written media-tie-in novels, as well) - whether they have been YA or not.
I first came across her a few years back with an entry in Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction
by the Firebird YA imprint and right away bought Crown Duel
, as her story was a sequel of that. I then ordered the Wren trilogy published by Firebird and quite liked the first two volumes. I bounced off the third because it started with an irreparable tragedy for one of the major characters who already had to suffer from something similar for years and I couldn't handle reading about having to deal with this and the aftermath.
That's actually one of her strengths: her books may have focus protagonists but no matter what age those are, child or grown-up, there are no guarantees that they will survive to the end (with the exception - so far - that if she names the book after that protagonist they haven't died yet). Her young adult worlds are just as hazardous, although the characters there go at their troubles and triumphs with less gray-scale in feeling (sometimes: this is not the case if your parents have died and you are heir to a throne), and more positive energy.
However, even if a character whom the reader loves dies, there's a good chance that they still have other characters to root for without hurling the book at the wall. Smith's books are always ensemble pieces with some starring roles sticking out. She manages to make even the side-characters so interesting and relevant when she highlights their role in her world/plot that you don't mind spending the time with them - there are no fillers, at the end you realise every bit of focus was necessary for you to see and appreciate the whole. ( Review of all Inda books released by DAW so far )