Book Review: The Naturals (The Naturals #1)

Summary:

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.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5

(review may contain minor spoilers)

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is definitely distinct in its subject matter. This novel deals with teenagers that possess extraordinary abilities. They are deemed “Naturals” because these abilities are not supernatural. For instance, our main character, Cassie, is a Natural Profiler. This means she has an uncanny ability to get inside the minds of killers. Another character, Lia, is a human lie detector. These teenagers are recruited into a section of the FBI that deals with solving cold cases. Or, in other words, cases that the FBI has not been able to solve on its own.

The novel opens up in a really interesting way by putting us in the mind of the main killer throughout the book.

YOU

You’ve chosen and chosen well. Maybe this one will be the one who stops you. Maybe she’ll be different. Maybe she’ll be enough.

The only thing that is certain is that she’s special.

You think it’s her eyes—not the color: an icy, see-through blue. Not the lashes, or the shape, or the way she doesn’t need eyeliner to give them the appearance of a cat’s.

No, it’s what’s behind those icy blues that brings the audience out in droves. You feel it, every time you look at her. The certainty. The knowing. That otherworldly glint she uses to convince people that she’s the real deal.

Maybe she is.

Maybe she really can see things. Maybe she knows things.

Maybe she’s everything she claims to be and more. But watching her, counting her breaths, you smile, because deep down, you know that she isn’t going to stop you.

You don’t really want her to stop you.

She’s fragile.

Perfect.

Marked.

And the one thing this so-called psychic won’t see coming is you.

It’s not the first time I’ve read books that show you into the mind of the villain from the start, but I really enjoy how Jennifer Lynn Barnes does it throughout the novel to keep you in the head of the killer. My favorite part about this type of narration is that when you find out the identity of the killer, you can truly feel the pieces in your head connect as you go back through their thoughts. It clicks and it’s really cool to watch.

Characters

First of all, our main character, Cassie is a girl with the ability to profile those around her. She can look at someone and tell you how they like their eggs and whether they play basketball or golf. But she can also get into the mind of a killer and tell you exactly why they did it. She can essentially see crimes in her mind and tell you what happened and why. While her ability is extremely cool (and slightly creepy) to watch, there were a few downsides to our heroine. First of all, she comes off as extremely detached and sort of bland. Her backstory is absolutely phenomenal, dealing with her mother’s disappearance/assumed murder, but it never seems to connect with Cassie. I love how she has reactions every time she gets inside our killer’s head to try and figure out their motives, but they never seem strong enough. Sure, she gets kind of lost and starts to lose control, but I wish there had been more. All around, I wish Cassie had been more.

The first Natural we meet is Michael. He is extremely sarcastic and kind of arrogant, to be honest. He has the ability to read people’s faces and emotions. He’s an interesting character and his confidence worked for his personality. However, I felt that he made unnecessary jabs at Dean all the time. We never find out why there is animosity between them and it just felt out of place in the story. Overall, Michael was not my favorite character, but he was well-written and fairly intriguing. I want to know more about his parents and the guy he put in a hospital.

My favorite character in this book would have to be Dean. He’s brooding, mysterious, and definitely a total hottie. Dean was shut off in the beginning because he was scared and I was on the edge of my seat waiting for him to finally reach out to Cassie and trust her with his past. When she finally finds out on her own and confronts him, I wanted to hug Dean and protect him for the rest of his life. I loved his personality and I absolutely adored his characterization. He was one of those characters that you just fall into and love with everything you have. I love his fears of turning into his father and I wanted to know more about what he went through. I wanted someone to take care of him like he was constantly taking care of Cassie.

“Briggs shouldn’t have brought you here,” he said finally. “This place will ruin you.”

“Did it ruin Lia?” I asked. “Or Sloane?”

“They’re not profilers.”

“Did this place ruin you?”

Dean didn’t pause, not even for a second. “There was nothing to ruin.”

Lia is a great teenage antagonist to Cassie. She pulls off the spoiled brat aspect really well and I liked the sibling dynamic between her and Dean. She is constantly flaunting her ability to detect lies and it seems like she was always trying to have the upper hand on everyone around her. I want to know more about her life before she joined the program. While she is fairly unlikable at times, she is also shown to have a slightly human side when she talks to Cassie about Michael and Dean.

“Dean would want me to tell you to stay away from him,” Lia said.

“And Michael?” I asked.

Lia shrugged. “I want to tell you to stay away from Michael.” She paused. “I won’t, but I want to.”

 Our last Natural is Sloane, the human computer. She can spout off statistics and numerical values like none other and is more than capable of hacking flash drives, as we see. I really liked the little things about her character, like her addiction to coffee and fondness for simulations. Sloane was a good friend to Cassie, even though she was not really sure how to act in emotionally charged situations. I really enjoyed her voice. It was mechanical, but with a childlike quality to it.

Sloane slipped an arm around my waist. “There are fourteen varieties of hugs,” she said. “This is one of them.”

Now, I am not a fan of love triangles. I kind of detest them, if I’m being honest. This novel featured more of a love square. Lia likes Michael. Michael used to like Lia, but now he likes Cassie. Dean likes Cassie. Cassie likes Dean, but feels something for Michael. It’s very dramatic at times, but it doesn’t completely overtake the story. It’s more of an afterthought most of the time. I didn’t completely hate it. I definitely side with Dean, but the rest of the love square doesn’t really interest me. I felt it slightly unnecessary. I did like the back and forth between Cassie and Dean though. It was very realistic, especially with both of their pasts.

Plot

I absolutely loved the premise and the story itself definitely delivered. It had a very Criminal Minds-esque feel to it and I was kept in suspense the whole time. Sometimes, characters did things that infuriated me to no end and I was left screaming how stupid they were being at my poor boyfriend. However, most of the time, they were realistically stupid things that teenagers would actually do. I loved the atmosphere and having little blurbs from the killer’s mind kept me on the edge of my seat.

Conclusion

I suggest reading this book as soon as possible. I’m quite fond of it and I’m definitely going to start the second book in the series as soon as I post this. While the main character fell flat at times, the other characters picked up the slack and kept the story interesting. I truly enjoyed reading this, even with its flaws.

I loved each of the backstories and I wanted to know more about every single character. For instance, what was meant when it said that Lia and Michael weren’t given the choice of whether or not to join the program? What happened to Dean’s dad? What about Cassie’s entire family? I was left with so many unanswered questions and I’m eager to see if the next book gives me any clues or answers.

Signed,

your favorite bookworm

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