One of my minor hobbies is keeping an eye out for new examples of unabashedly SFnal entry-level SF, the stuff that draws new readers in and guarantees that there will be an SF of a particular sort decades down the road. While it’s true the young adult genre is filled with clearly SFnal novels, it seems to me that many publishers market Young Adult fiction as its own category, not as science fiction, while bookstores are careful to shelve YA well away from SF. I don’t think it is because they are afraid SF will catch YA cooties. I think the truth is much less complementary to SF: YA is too successful right now to risk it being associated with SF, which only accounts for some 2% of fiction sales.
IMHO, 2014’s Tin Star is in many ways the sort of book SF needs. Think of it as the juvenile SF novel an inexperienced C. J. Cherryh might have written if she’d decided to go full-bore Heinlein juvenile. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but the problems that bugged me could be easily corrected if the author could be convinced that correcting them would be worth her time. As it is, this is still worth consideration as a gift for young proto-SF readers.