Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Book 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.

The Naturals was so nearly brilliant. It was smart, original, exciting but there were a couple of things that made me mark it down a star which was a real shame.

I have never really seen anything like The Naturals in YA before it was very dark but I really liked that side of it. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is not afraid to take this book to some gruesome and dark places and I commend her for it. This is a book about serial killers and it doesn’t take the subject lightly. I really liked the idea, it reminded me a lot of Criminal Minds which is not a surprise considering they are both about criminal profiling but despite the similarities it still manages to be original and different.

At first I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. The whole idea of teens being hired by the FBI because they are naturally gifted in profiling, statistics, lie detecting and reading emotions seemed a little to bizarre but the author handles it really well and in the end it worked for me.

There is not much action in this but the story is paced nicely and is more thriller than anything else. I liked the cat and mouse game towards the end and loved it when this went somewhere I didn’t expect at all. I love it when there is a twist that I never saw coming and The Naturals really managed to surprise me.

The characters could have been a bit more dynamic. There was a range of personalities but

they tended to stay in the typical YA stereotypes. There were two boys (the cheeky one and the brooding one) and three girls (the smart one, the bitchy one, the quirky one) there was nothing new with the characters and they could have walked out of any other book. Unfortunately, the main character Cassie is the least interesting of the bunch she had an interesting past but lacked any real personality.

My main issue with this book was the unneeded love triangle. I felt like it added absolutely nothing to what was an exciting and interesting storyline. It felt really gratuitous and did nothing for me. I am not like some readers who hate the love triangle but it has to be done well for and for the right reasons and I felt that this one was forced and not natural. I thought that this would have had a lot more depth if the romance had just focused on Cassie and Dean. Dean is an interesting character with a lot of complexities and the interaction between them was great. Michael was also a good character but I didn’t like him as a love interest especially as he already has an on again, off again with another one of the characters which makes this more of a love square than anything.

If there was no love triangle this book would have easily got four stars from me and I really wish I could give it those four stars but I cannot. 

 Despite the love triangle there is a lot of good things to be found here, I thought this was a gutsy book with a lot to recommend it.

3 stars

Published November 2013 by Quercus in the UK & Disney-Hyperion in the US.  A free copy was provided for review.  All images taken from Goodreads

Written by Kate Phillips

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