(Ooh, can you imagine the misconceptions that title can bring.)
I've read quite a few YA books where the author gives us a truly vile villain. The kind that is absolutely irredeemable and they just need to die. All the readers know it and the characters in the book know it too.
So, I'm reading along, getting closer and closer to the end and anticipating the final showdown - the last confrontation between good and evil - but then the author chickens out.
I've actually seen this go two ways. The most recent one - and the one that prompted this post - was a book I was reading that had several villains start picking each other off until a lighter shade of grey took out the last one. Then we were left with a provisionally 'good guy' keeping our teen hero's hands clean.
Considering that this book had time travel, it made it even worse at on point by having three people shooting a villain at the same time - two of the shooters being teens - and then one of the teens traveling back to stop the other teen from shooting the villain (not the main purpose of that bit of time travel, but the result) and, low and behold, that was the bullet that killed the villain. So, that kept the teens hands clean of blood.
Or you have what I call the 'Disney villain death' - even if that's not really what other people mean by it.
An example: you have the hero and the villain fighting on a bridge. Hero get's the upper hand - quite literally - and their attack sends the villain falling over the side. But wait, at the last moment, the villain managed to grab a hold of the bridge. Well, the hero can't just leave the villain there. After all, that's not what heroes do. So the hero bends down to save the villain. The villain, for reasons that shall remain their own - because, seriously, it's the stupidest decision they could make - decides that is the appropriate moment, while the hero is in a position of weakness and their life is literally in the hero's hands, to attack them one final time. The attack fails - sometimes leaving the hero with 'no choice' - and it is through the villain's own stupidity that they die.
I have seen both 'deaths' used in YA books more than adult novels and I have to say, I'm sick of it. It's through some misguided idea that the teens have to be kept from getting blood on their hands, it seems to me.
I don't know if that's the intent of the author, trying to keep a teenaged character from actually killing someone, and I know there are plenty of books (or, at least, a few) where a teen actually makes the decision to kill a character when there could be other options.
What do you think of this? Have you even noticed it in YA books? Is it the type of books I read? Do you like the attempt to keep the teen a little more 'pure'?