I wish I could help. I don't read much Young Adult though anymore. At Carol Berg's group. They are giving out a great list of young adult books as recommendations now. You might want to try Carol Berg's Warrior of Two Souls Group and read those posts there, Iris.
i can recommend:
robin mckinley's damar novels (and most of her other books); plenty of heroine lead characters
philip pullman's "his dark materials"
I'll mentioned while Erikson's first book is very bleak, starting with the second book in his Malazan Series he does interject some humour, so it isn't all bleak.
As far as YA goes I'll mention LLoyd Alexander's Pyrdain series which is my favourite YA series, and I'll mention Scott Westerfeld's Midnighter series that is a lot of fun.
I just finished Regeneration the 3rd and final book in her Species Imperative series by Julie Czerneda which was excellent, I wallowed in this book for two weeks, normally I would have finished it in a few days, but I didn't want it to end. Very Definitely Reccommended.
Kate Elliot's Jaran series is very good. I liked it a bit more than her Crown of Stars series. But I havent read the latest in either series.
I recently read a series of young adult fantasy books by Tamora Pierce. actually two different series. 1)"circle of magic" 4 books about four children, each child has their own book. 2)"protector of the small" about a girl who wants to become a knight. both very good series.
A favourite with my 13yo grandaughter at present are the Adventures of Lemony Snicket.
I've found Kate Elliott's 'Jaran' hiding on my shelves with Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle so now I know why the bells were ringing. I'm putting it aside for a re-read as I can't remember the story at all. With my dodgy memory it will be fresh read probably.
Thanks for the ideas and suggestions on the YA books, (everybody) it's very appreciated. I'll check them out this week - I liked the look/sound of the Tamora Pierce books myself when looking around the shelves at them - love Lemony Snicket - most assuredly they are on the list.
For those interested, Children of Magic, edited by Kerrie Hughes and Martin H. Greenberg, came out today. This book contains my story, "Shades of Truth".
The book itself has received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly (The first DAW Anthology to get one) I've actually just finished reading it, and there are some really terrific stories.
If you want a taste, a few of us in the book posted an "Anthology Birthday Post" on Julie Czerneda's newsgroup (Complete with snippets) at: http://webnews.sff.net/read?cmd=read&group=sff.people.julie-czerneda&artnum=2658 62
Thanks I'll look for it Sandtiger. Love your writing. Congratulations on the success. I knew you'd make it.