Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release: November 5th 2013
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller, YA
#1 in the Naturals quartet
Sequels: Killer Instinct (#2), All In (#3), Bad Blood (#4)


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.


4.5 stars. Holy hell was that a wild fucking ride. And it was damn amazing.

Seriously, I cannot tell you how happy I am right now, I am literally grinning from ear to ear. It's been quite a long time since I've truly just enjoyed a novel like I have The Naturals and been so in tune with a cast of characters. I really felt this one, guys.

Just like Cassie can't explain her gift for reading people, I can't quite put my finger on what exactly it was about this novel that drew me in. I might have some suspicions, though.

For one, the characters were incredible. I liked how all of them stood out and were so vastly different from each other, they all had their own personality and things that made them likable and stuff that made them unlikable, and all in all, they simply felt very real. Even if they are kids in a special program who have paranormal abilities, they came across as true teenagers living their teenage life in their own abnormal ways. And I absolutely loved it.

Another thing about them that I loved was all of the character dynamics, both between the kids themselves as well as between them and their mentors/superiors. I liked how Lia and Cassie's relationship went from mistrustful, deceptive and cold to being tolerant and neutral towards each other; I am so here for them becoming friends in the next two novels. I loved how Cassie and Sloane were as different as could be and even though their interactions are actually limited, Barnes still managed to convey how nice their bond is. And, for once, I can see the attraction between Cassie and Dean. I can imagine them working really, really well and I felt the tension between them. I liked them together, I shipped them. I still do. It was crazy, I think this was the first time in a long time that I was 100% on board  with a YA teen romance. I didn't even mind the love triangle too much, even though I do still believe that the thing with Michael was a little unnecessary and convenient, because, surprise surprise, both guys have a thing for new girl Cassie. But whatever, you know what, I don't even care. I don't even care about the inherent heteronormativity, although I'd like to think, as a headcanon, about Sloane being ace/aro and Lia being bi. 

However, what probably takes the cake here is the plot. I can totally understand why the story itself might seem really boring to some, because it's either about a) teen drama, b) teen angst or c) various lessons about profiling Cassie is having together with Agent Locke and Dean. That is, until the ball really starts rolling at about 50% in; when things start to heat up and the stakes are raised. I loved how they went to the crime scenes, investigated on their own, but most of all, I loved the figuring things out part. I am literally such a sucker for this, especially because everything somehow makes sense. Which it did. It was mind-blowing, dazzling, I was absolutely and utterly entranced. I loved Barnes' storytelling and writing and the way she dropped clues and hints and scattered them throughout the whole novel.... I am in awe. Because I seriously went through several possible suspects in my head, rotating through them over the course of the novel, but I never ever suspected the one who ACTUALLY ended up being the villain. Maybe I' was just too dumb to see it, but to me it was simply genius and such a satisfying what-the-fuck moment when the big reveal happened.

I am so really happy I found this novel. I am immediately starting with the sequel, which I hope is going to be just as great. I loved it.

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