May 15, 2014

REVIEW: The Naturals (The Naturals #1)

The Naturals (The Naturals #1), by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published November 5, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: young adult suspense/crime/mystery
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(From Goodreads) 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 different from what I usually read. It's not driven by a romance. It's not paranormal. And, it's just a little bit scary. I felt like I had gotten in a bit of a rut lately, and was looking for something outside of the box I had found myself in. The Naturals sounded interesting to me, so I decided to go for it, and I was astounded at how much I enjoyed it!

Cassie has an uncanny ability - she can tell you all about a person just by observing them. She lives with her overbearing Italian extended family after her mother was murdered and her military father threw himself into his work. When Cassie is approached by the FBI and asked to work with them to use her gift to help solve cold cases, she jumps at the chance to do some good. The four other kids in the program have similar abilities to hers, and Cassie thinks she's finally found a home and a purpose. Until a serial killer the FBI is currently tracking seems to set his sights on her. 

The Naturals was like two parts Psych and one part The Alphas.

Cassie finds herself in a house with four other kids. There's Sloane who is like a walking encyclopedia, Michael who can tell people's feelings and emotions by looking at them, Lia is like a human lie detector and Dean is also a profiler like Cassie. Dean and FBI agent Lacey Locke take Cassie under their wings to teach her how to hone her ability and use it to help the FBI solve cold cases. 

Cassie is a really strong female main character. She is ballsey, takes chances, and goes for what she believes in. Despite the grisly nature of what these kids do, Cassie remains compassionate and sensitive. She's like most other 17-year-olds - she only wants to fit in and make friends. But, with her tragic past and her ability to pick people apart just by observing them, it's a little hard for her to be "normal." She thinks she's finally found her place in the world among the other teenage freaks. 

Her reception in the house is varied. Sloane, who is, by nature, very logical and calculating, takes her arrival in stride. I enjoyed Sloane's no-nonsense attitude and the fact that she's been banned from coffee because of what the caffeine does to her. Poor girl. 

Michael loves Cassie. He's a bit of a player with a screwed up home life. He sets his sights on Cassie and sets to work wooing her immediately. But, Cassie seems to be most interested in Dean, perhaps because of all the kids there, he is the most like her. Except for the fact that Dean is a brooder. He always seems angry and withdrawn, so it's hard to get close to him. That makes the moments when he lets his guard down around Cassie all that much sweeter. There's a reason for Dean's aloofness, and when it's revealed, you can sort of understand why he is the way he is. 

Finally, there's Lia, who is the book's token mean girl. She's BFFs in a weird way with Dean and an on-again, off-again hook-up with Michael. You can't tell even a little white lie around her or she will call you out. Do you have any idea how many itty bitty fibs you tell in a day? And how hard it would be to be around someone who knew every single time you let one slip? It would get old, fast. Lia was a great mean girl. You get the impression that, perhaps, she's not really as bad as she makes herself out to be. But, the uber bitch in her always comes out, and your temporary softening toward her disappears immediately. 

The overarching mystery was awesome. There is a serial killer giving the FBI trouble. He's killing girls, and although the kids were only hired to take on cold cases, they're eventually brought in on this active one after the killer starts leaving little presents for Cassie here and there. I loved seeing the two boys in protector mode - they both care for Cassie in their way, and it was clear she was in deep. I enjoyed watching all five kids use their abilities to work together to try and get to the bottom of the mystery before another girl turns up dead. 

I'm really excited for the next book! Although the mystery was solved, the love triangle was not. I use the term "love triangle" loosely - the romance angle was not pressed hard in The Naturals. It was more of an afterthought, which was fine since the mystery took center stage. But, there was a triangle of sorts between Cassie, Michael and Dean. I have my favorite, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book to see if I will get my wish.

1 comment:

LRAtRandom said...

Loved this one!!! But you already knew that :-P