by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
Source: ARC from Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley
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 is one of the rare cases where I felt detached from the protagonist but still ended up enjoying the story as a whole. Cassie isn’t the most impressive character out there. She didn’t leave much impression on me, and it doesn’t help that her voice tends to lean more on the monotonous side for the most part of the story. Even when she’s reliving the murder of her mother and in all the other scenes where she’s supposed to appear sympathetic, I still couldn’t feel her. I didn’t see anything remarkable about her character either, except that she is a character profiler. If there is one thing I enjoyed greatly about her, it is her ability to read people’s emotions based on the simplest of gestures and to be able to put herself in the shoes of a serial killer, follow their train of thoughts and guess what their next action will be.
Unlike the main character, the side characters in The Naturals are distinctive and it was entertaining to see how each personality handles the same situation. Lia and Sloane are fun characters and it sucks that I felt more for them than I did with Cassie. Lia is the bitchy type with the knack for lying and identifying if a person is lying. Sloane is the mild-mannered one who knows way too much about statistics. She often sprouts random statistical facts when she’s nervous and gets hyper when she ingests caffeine. Sloane appears to be the most innocent one of the bunch, but enough time with her will tell you otherwise. She has several tricks up her sleeve that she continues to pull all throughout the story. Dean and Michael are quite entertaining too in their distracting way that’s always full of manly-tension. They are the opposite of the other. Michael is the flirty type who is exceedingly confident while Dean is the quiet type who tends to isolate himself.
One of the things that caught me off guard about The Naturals is the love triangle. The summary already suggests it, but I don’t remember. I probably didn’t read it as thoroughly as I thought. I have a great dislike for love triangles and despite my unfeeling toward Cassie, I can’t help but be distracted by it. It also makes my brain ache thinking who Cassie might end up with because I'm a romance junkie regardless of my feelings for a character and I stress myself over things like that. It doesn't help that the boys are neither ahead of the other when it comes to Cassie's affection. Needless to say, this is my least favorite part of the book.
But despite the shortcomings, what ultimately redeemed this story for me is the gifts the characters have. I have not read a book with the likes of it, so I was pleased with Barnes’s The Naturals. Knowing how a serial killer’s mind works is both horrifying and spellbinding. The mystery of the killer is something I can’t comment on though, because I peeked at the last few pages before actually reading this and accidentally saw who the killer is however, in spite of that, Barnes still managed to surprise me.
The Naturals is a promising start to a (supernatural?) series and I would love to read more about character profiling as well as the other gifts the characters have, but hopefully we can get rid of the love triangle in the next book.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Disclosure: This e-galley was received from the publisher (Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest opinion. No compensation was received for making this review.