Review: THE NATURALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

Sometimes, I can be unbelievably cynical. For instance, while I do give some weight to recommendations from authors, when I know the two authors are friends, I tend to scoff. I mean, honestly, what are they going to say? “This is my best friend, and she wrote a book. It’s crap, but I love her, so you should read it!”? No. So when Ally Carter came to my town and gushed over her BFF Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s new book, I took note, but skeptically.

Boy, am I an idiot. The Naturals was so good that I didn’t take a single note while reading. Not one! I was too hungry to get to the next page. Notes?

The bad news is that I have no notes, which means this review is going to be really short and gushy. Here are a few important things you need to know about The Naturals:

1. The premise of the book is that some teens are Naturals at certain things: profiling, lie-detecting, analysis, etc. They’re little savants the FBI rounds up to use on cold cases and to study. However, they’re also forced to live together, so it’s basically like sticking teen versions of a couple different flavors of Sherlock, a female Dr. Reid from Criminal Minds, and a female Cal Lightman from Lie to Me in the same house with their brain juices turned up on high.

2. Cassie, the main character, has personal reasons for joining. Like most teenagers in YA books, Cassie feels like she doesn’t belong in her dad’s loud Italian family (who are a riot, by the way). At the house with the other Naturals, she knows exactly where she stands and doesn’t feel like such a freak. Working with the FBI might also get her closer to her mother’s killer. Dun dun DUNNNN. Cassie is also freaking fantastic, because being in her head is like being in Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, but without the psychopathy. Her profiles are made quickly and seemingly at random, but she can back up what she surmises with solid observations, AND I LOVED IT.

3. This book is funny. Really, honest-to-goodness funny. I can already predict that Michael, the Natural emotion detector, will be a fan favorite. He’s ridiculously snarky and just oozes charm, but of course he has a secretly soft center. He also can tell what you’re feeling by looking at you, which can be very helpful. And Michael isn’t alone in the laughs. Each character takes the stereotype they’re given (nearly autistic statistician brainchild, catty liar, dark and brooding man-child) and runs with it. The dynamics of the house are awesome, and I can’t wait to learn more about each character.

4. This book is creepy. Seriously, oh-my-gosh creepy. The walls of the house are lined with portraits of serial killers were family photos should go. Each portion of the house is set up to represent a past crime scene, even the pool. Oh, and we also get snippets from the viewpoint of the killer (which works surprisingly well), and this particular killer LIKES TO CARVE OFF THE FACES OF THEIR VICTIMS. Eek.

5. There is a love triangle. This may be a sticking point for some people. Normally, it would be for me, but I enjoyed myself. I think there are positive and negative aspects to each boy, and there is no good boy/bad boy dichotomy. Or, if there is, it’s a war between each boy as individuals. Both Dean and Michael have parts of themselves they must struggle with.

6. It’s not totally predictable. I know that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but it is. I was raised on Agatha Christie novels and what felt like every crime/mystery TV show known to man. I know plot twists. I know hidden motivations. And yes, I did guess the identity of the killer, but only just barely. AND I didn’t put all the pieces together, so I was pleasantly surprised on several counts. (Also, bonus points for girl genius Cassie not being right all the time either.)

 

7. I want the sequel NOWWWWW. Please, Ms. Barnes, write faster. I need to know more, and I NEED more time with the Naturals.

Favorite Non-Spoilery Quotes:

“You know,” he said conversationally, “I knew you’d come.” I raised an eyebrow at him. “Even though you told me not to?” He shrugged. “My inner Boy Scout had to try.” If this guy had an inner Boy Scout, I had an inner flamingo.

We need to talk,” Dean said. “Whatever you have to say,” Michael drawled, “you can say in front of me.” I gave Michael a look. “Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of me, unless Cassie wishes to speak to you privately, in which case I completely respect her right to do so,” Michael corrected himself.

Points Added For: ALL THE THINGS

Points Subtracted For: A few loose ends (that likely will NOT be tied up in bk 2 because of REASONS), a bit of instalovin’ from Dean and Michael

Good For Fans Of: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, Criminal MindsHeist Society by Ally Carter

Notes For Parents: Creepy bloodshed and violence, some kissing

Note: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

And one more for the road:

11 Responses to Review: THE NATURALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

  1. Emma November 11, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Loved reading your thoughts, Shae! I have a review of The Naturals ready to go up next week, and oh my word, I’ll just say the book was fabulous.

    • Shae November 12, 2013 at 5:48 am #

      Oooh, can’t wait to read what you thought!

    • Amber December 27, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

      Omg I have been thinking of Dean and Cassie one shots to write and read but I cant find any!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In the naturals I was totally shipping Micheal and Cassie but then I read killer instinct and I decided Dean and Cassie was amazing!!!!!!!!!

  2. Leila November 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    “… teen versions of a couple different flavors of Sherlock, a female Dr. Reid from Criminal Minds, and a female Cal Lightman from Lie to Me in the same house with their brain juices turned up on high.” Ahahahahaha! I love that. Way more descriptive than “a group of forensic X-Men”, which is how I described this one.

    I’m totally looking forward to the sequel as well.
    Leila recently posted…The Hunger Games, as interpreted by cats and cardboard.My Profile

    • Shae November 12, 2013 at 5:48 am #

      The Naturals took all the brainy forensic stuff that I LOVE in my TV shows, so it was fun pulling examples from those TV shows. 🙂

  3. AnimeJune November 12, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    SOLD!

    This one’s going on the wishlist! This sounds amazing. Teen profilers with innate abilities? Sweet.

    …although, I hate to nitpick, but Sherlock’s isn’t a psychopath, he’s a “high functioning sociopath.” LOLOLOLOL
    AnimeJune recently posted…“Good Omens,” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (HarperTorch, 2006)My Profile

    • Shae November 12, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

      To nitpick back, my beloved Sherlock is not a sociopath (which is the same thing as a psychopath, in reality), because he feels genuine emotion. But the fact that you can quote the show MAKES ME LOVE YOU MORE!

  4. Gillian November 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    I WAAAAAAAAAAAAANT IT! SOLD SOLD SOLD! TEENAGE SHERLOCK FUNNY TIMES CREEPY TIMES SOLD SOLD SOLD!!!
    Gillian recently posted…Review: Exile by Shannon MessengerMy Profile

    • Shae November 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      GIT IT GIT IT GIT IT

  5. katy November 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    I’ve seen so many positive reviews for this, and actually commented on one a few minutes ago! I was kinda meh about it because I’m always a little questionable about situations where law enforcement invite teenagers to help them, but it sounds like it might be easy to set that aside and enjoy it anyway.

    I’m the same way about authors with their author friends, though. They cannot always be trusted!
    katy recently posted…Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson [book review]My Profile

    • Shae November 19, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

      Actually, I thought Barnes addressed that doubt rather well. The kids are told multiple times that they are NOT allowed to help with active cases. Instead, the FBI agents try to learn more about their natural abilities, and the kids in turn can hone those abilities by working on cold cases.

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