The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: November 2013
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: The Naturals (#1)
Other Titles in the Series: Killer Instinct (#2)
Summary (goodreads.com): 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.
I devoured this book. I couldn’t read it fast enough. Ally Carter called it “the Criminal Minds of the YA world” and rightly so. The main character, Cassie, is a natural profiler. She is able to get into people’s heads by exploring their behavior, personality, and environment. For me, it was a combination of Cassie’s skill, the unique perspective of the killer, and the suspense of the crime that made this book great! Cassie can imagine what it would be like to be a killer; she understands what they wanted and why they did it. I find it fascinating that anyone can enter someone’s head like that. I loved that Barnes really explored how Cassie was a natural at profiling, in that while many can learn how to by learning the steps, Cassie just knew. She found it hard to explain the things she saw that led her to the conclusions she reached. I also liked when the narration of the novel deviated from Cassie’s point of view to that of the killer’s. As Cassie was learning to profile killers the way professional profilers do she learned to always call the UNSUB (Unknown Subject) “I” or “you” so as to get closer to them. So, to have the Killer’s narration using second person was incredibly creepy and also very insightful. Personally, I felt closer to Cassie and Dean because of those small glimpses into the killers head, I felt like I was profiling along with them.
The Naturals was also incredibly suspenseful to me. My eyes couldn’t read fast enough, I needed to know what happened next more than I needed my next breath! I never knew what was going to be thrown at the characters, who was going to wind up dead next, or who the killer was. This book definitely was a lot darker and bloodier than I’d have thought for a YA book and I think that sets it apart. It wasn’t dulled down for the sake of the readers’ age (if you are wondering if your child can handle this just ask yourself if you would let them watch shows like Criminal Minds or CSI, if they can watch that they can read this).
Despite this being a dark novel, it was surprisingly funny. Sloane, while also a brilliant statistician, was somewhat of a comic relief for me. Sloane is very literal. She rapidly became my favorite character and I hope to see more of her in the next books. There was also quite a bit of drama included. I mean, what else does one expect when you put five brilliant, naturally talented teenagers together in one house? There is a love triangle, but not one that I found annoying or distracting. The love triangle between Cassie, Michael, and Dean is fascinating in itself. Usually, I can tell which person the main character will end up with, but with Cassie I really have no idea. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if she tells both of the boys to buzz off. I hope in the next novels to see more of the personalities and backgrounds of Cassie’s new team. Overall, I highly recommend The Naturals to anyone who is interested in crime dramas!