If you look at the YA section in any bookstore, you'll see a lot of dark books. Some are thrillers and supernatural, but many of them are contemporary. These books are dark, don't deny it, but they're important. Important to the people that share the problems of the characters.
When this genre is attacked for the mature and often terrifying subjects it tackles, bloggers and authors alike cry injustice. The main argument is that these books are real, these issues are real, and that if you don't write or read about them, you're shutting out the entire world. They are real, and some people live them every day. BUT, it's not everyones' reality, and just because you don't read about them does not mean you're ignoring them. I am fully aware of the troubles in the world, things I have thankfully never experienced, but I don't have to read about them to know.
Other authors and readers will argue that not all books are about self harm, drug abuse, suicide, and rape. Not all books have teens drinking and having sex. That's true. There are some really clean books out there, and I am unimaginably grateful to the authors of those books. But how often is it that you find a contemporary YA book like that? If it's not an issues book, it's completely unrealistic. Vampires, teen spies, aliens, time-travel, dragons, magic. None of those things are real, and while those books are fantastic, it'd be nice to read a realistic book where no one's suffering. Yes, there is suffering in the world, but there are also people who are not struggling with difficult issues, but for some reason, no one seems to want to write about them.
Now, I'm only saying this because someone is bound to bring it up in the comments. Chick-lit is usually contemporary, no faeries or anything. I know that. But chick-lit is hardly realistic (at least, the chick-lit I've run across). It takes everyday occurrences and blows them completely out of proportion, or creates totally unrealistic circumstances from the beginning. And 90% of the time, the only point of the book is that female lead end up with male lead. Just to be clear, we're not talking about chick-lit here. We're talking about plain old contemporary YA.
So, how real are contemporary YA books? Not as real as you'd like to believe. They only show you a small glimpse of the world, only drag you into the darkest shadows of humanity. While those books usually lead you and the characters into the light by the end, they tend to forget the people that have always been there.
One final note on the subject. Books are not harmless. Anything that has the power to help also has the power to hurt. Just like life-saving medicine can have dangerous side-effects, nothing created by human hands is ever completely good.