by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals #1
Published: 05 November 2013
Disney-Hyperion, Hardcover, 308 pages
Goodreads | The Book Depository | Amazon
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 have a like/hate relationship with this novel. Yes, like/hate not love/hate because I wouldn’t go as far as to say I love it although some aspects of it were pretty enjoyable. Revolving around the MC, Cassie, who was supernaturally good at deriving information about people by their behavior, hence getting ‘hired’ by the FBI, and whose mother had also been brutally murdered (or was assumed to be) when she had been twelve-years-old, The Naturals had much potential to be a great read. However, the lackluster characters involved and horrid romance really dragged it down.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like the book. The murder mysteries and little snippets into the serial killer’s mind had me flipping the pages quickly. Moreover, the training for Cassie and the other Naturals was undoubtedly interesting and got me wondering whether that was how the FBI worked on murder cases in real life – with people trained to be perceptive towards human behavior, emotion and being analytical with probabilities, patterns and statistics. Although, in the Naturals’ cases, they were born with such talents.
The plot was genuinely going so well but in comes the characters and romance. The character-development in The Naturals was practically nonexistent. Cassie, Micheal, Dean and the rest of the characters were only defined by their abilities, ‘haunting pasts’ and nothing else. What were their likes and dislikes? Habits? Hobbies? They were flat as pancakes.
The romance, however, would make the character-development seem spectacular in comparison. This novel had the perfect example of an unnecessary and lousy love angle. The love angle had nothing to do with the story and by adding it in, it felt like the author wanted to put pickles in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Furthermore, the connection between Cassie and each of the guys pulled a disappearing act. Despite the many so-called ‘heart-to-heart’ conversations they had, it still felt as if they barely knew each other, probably because the lack of personality in each of them doesn’t make good for attempted soul-deep conversations.
Towards the conclusion of the novel though, the author did successfully create tension and suspense that will leave readers suspicious of almost every character—even Cassie, the protagonist. I would say the villain was pretty easy to spot in the end but the conundrum surrounding the murders and Cassie’s own mother’s murder still dramatically made up for the awful characters and romance.
To wrap up, I wager The Naturals would be more suitable for readers who are more concerned about the plot and story of a book rather than the characters and the relationships between them. Would I be continuing with the next book, Killer Instinct (out November 2014, tentatively)? That would be a yes although I will probably wait until I have nothing else I really want to read lying around.