She doesn't pull punches.
Right now, I'm in the middle of the first book in her young adult series, Strange Angels. Dru, the main character, is a girl who's spent most of her life moving from place to place as her father hunts monsters. At the very beginning of the book, the unthinkable happens. Dru's father doesn't come home. And when he does - as a zombie - poor Dru is forced to make the worst decision of her young life. She's forced to kill him. What follows is a roller coaster of traumatic events that never really let her get her feet under her.
Lilith doesn't dumb down her reading for young adults. This series is a gritty and dark as Dante Valentine and Jill Kismet, her adult series. Dru is floundering in a well of emotions as she comes to terms with her drastically altered world. Yes, there are boys. Because after she shoots her father, Dru goes to the mall. She's sitting in the food court in shock when a boy (Graves) from one of her classes sits down and offers to help her. With most teen lit writers this would be the point where brainlessness takes over. (You know what I'm talking about - ooh cute boy, forget everything, does he like me? gag) For some reason, a lot of teen authors tend to dumb down their books like that. Story takes a back seat to boy oogling. And emotion is blunt and stunted. They suck the life out of their stories by assuming that teens either don't want to delve into emotion or don't have the capability. But not Lilith. She delivers a gut wrenching horror fest as Dru turns to a complete stranger not because he's cute but because she needs something to ground her on the worst day of her life.
I love the emotion in this story. Dru is alternately tough as nails and desperately fragile. Her grief is overwhelming. Graves, her initial savior is an unexpected burden, and a reason to survive. I'm not sure if she could survive without him, but his lack of knowledge of the 'Real World' (where werewulfs and suckers live) is just as likely to get both of them killed.
In both her Dante Valentine (Dante is perhaps the most damaged character I've ever read) where Japhrimel keeps Dante going and her Jill Kismet series (thank God for Saul), she takes a female character and shows that just because they're female, that doesn't mean they can't be tough, mean, hard, badass killers and still be gentle, caring, needy and female. And she doesn't take the easy way out with her characters, either. There is no guarantee of a happy end. And to me, that makes it all the more enjoyable. I want to doubt that things will turn out okay. I want to cry with the characters. I want to rail with them at fate's capriciousness.
That she can write a teen book and still produce a story with the ability to make my stomach knot and my throat grow tight right along with the character is phenomenal. So, yes, I love Lilith Saintcrow. Seriously. I bow to her brilliance and worship at her writer's feet.
(The next book in this series is released tomorrow. The books are as follows: Strange Angels, Betrayals, Jealousy, and Defiance. If you shy away from teen books because you think they're shallow, try these.)