Thursday, October 17, 2013

ARC Book Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Naturals
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Release Date: November 5th, 2013
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: 
I like the cover for The Naturals, but I almost feel like something is missing and I can't quite put my finger on it.  Perhaps it is the white fading to gray background....

The Gist:
Cassie is a natural at reading people.  She has never thought it was good for much until the day that the FBI leaves a calling card.  She soon finds herself part of a secret government program that trains teenagers to solve cold case files.  Along with four strange and quirky teens, she begins training for the role of profiler - a job that may be more dangerous than anyone had thought. 


I was actually quite surprised by how much I enjoyed The Naturals.  In the world of YA, it is not too often that I get to read a straight-laced mystery.  As a big fan of Criminal Minds, I was really interested to see how Jennifer Lynn Barnes would take on the world of profilers.  Cassie's abilities are natural, but were honed from years of reading crowds as her mother preformed as a "psychic".  When she joins The Naturals - a secret program run by the FBI in order to train teenagers with special gifts - she is finally able to put those talents to use.  The story reads very much like an intense episode of Criminal Minds and Barnes does not shy away from the more graphic aspects.  The narration includes interludes spoken from the mind of the serial killer that the team is chasing.  These sections provide terrifying insight into the thoughts of a killer (a world that Cassie is trying to discover) and add a sense of urgency to the plot. 

Since I read a great deal of YA, it is often all too easy to forsee where a plot is going.  In The Naturals, however, I was actually surprised by a few of the plot twists which is certainly a refreshing change.  It is also nice to see a solid mystery that doesn't rely on supernatural abilities.  I will say that there are some aspects that were a little too easy and had to be taken with a grain of salt - such as ability of an untrained teenager to outsmart seasoned FBI profilers.  The novel is also rather dark and there are some particularly gruesome descriptions that may be disturbing for some readers. 

I found Cassie to be a little boring.  Other than her abilities and being witness to her mother's murder, she is not particularly interesting.  But, I did enjoy many of the other characters.  Sloane, for one, was cute and quirky.  She often had lines that made me smile or laugh "'This encryption is pathetic,' Sloane said.  'It's like they want me to hack their files.'"  She also had a handy penchant for stealing and a less than healthy obsession with blowing things up.  Lia, the human lie detector, was also a great character.  She was a bit of a character chameleon and, from page to page, I was never sure which Lia I was going to get. 

I am not yet sure if this novel will lead into a series.  It does not appear so on Goodreads, but the ending seems to imply that it will.  If so, I will certainly be reading the next installment but, I would be even more excited if I were to learn that it would feature Sloane or Lia as main character, rather than Cassie. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Descriptions of Murder and Torture, Knifeplay, Gunplay
Inappropriate Language: Whore, Slut
Substance Use/Abuse:


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