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Monday, March 14, 2016

YA Review: The Naturals

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Published: November 5th, 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 308 plus acknowledgements, an excerpt, and weirdly no about the author.
Part of a series? Yes, there are three of them out, and the fourth is in the works. I believe the cover was just revealed recently, actually.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (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.

Review: Holy cow was this fun. Which, ah, considering the subject matter, is kind of a terrible thing to say, but I really enjoyed this. I got sick and forgot to renew my library books, and wracked up a few overdue fees and can't order anything... but on Tuesday when I pay them down, I believe I shall order the sequels to this because man, I want them now. (Hey, Hyperion? Can we be friends? Can I have Naturals 4?)

I'm actually annoyed that the front of the book compares it to Criminal Minds because it's not as clever when I do it. But it is a really good comparison. This is like a really good episode of Criminal Minds, or like a really good arc in a season. The beginning is creepy, it's exciting, and if you look at my goodreads of me reading this, I literally was completely fooled by who the killer was twice in three pages.

I do have a few of my own comparisons, though. The set-up of a special program for gifted teens? While this is less on the ESP side of gifted (although I honestly think it rides a fine line with the whole "natural" thing, since I'm not sure people can do that), it reminds me a bit of the Dark Visions trilogy, and there's even a romance element that's similar. The groups of kids in both books even both have five kids! The main characters of both are redheads! Now, remember the Fearless book series? There was a short-lived spin-off series called Fearless FBI that I was bummed only lasted for a few books because I really enjoyed it. This is like those two series mashed up and modernized and made awesome.

Plot Talk: Pretty much what it says in the summary. There are some really, really interesting plot twists and elements that are really good, and I don't want to spoil them so I won't mention them. I'm still sick, and this is a library book, so let's call that good enough.

Characters: These characters are really interesting. Especially Cassie and the other Naturals, it's really hard to get a read on them because of what they can do. Cassie struggles to truly understand the others, which challenges her in a way she's not used to, and seeing that through her eyes is so interesting. She's a character who's used to reading people at a glance, and that too is fascination.

While we only get a small glimpse of them, Cassie's large Italian family is also vibrant, and lively. Even the love triangle is done well, and doesn't make me annoyed at all, which is harder to do these days since we've been so saturated in them.

PG-13 stuff: Well, yeah, people get like murdered and stuff. Surprisingly, though, almost no language besides misogynist slurs used by the killer. There's a fair amount of violence and gore, so sensitive readers may want to be careful, but it's not so heavily done that it becomes excessively disturbing. Basically, think Criminal Minds episode. Nothing you wouldn't see on TV, probably.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: There's a joke about "overweight truckers" that was annoying considering there are actually no fat characters in the book. If you don't use us in your book, don't make jokes about us in your book, people.

The other thing is that there is an Asian character with coloured streaks in her hair, and there's not really any reason given about that other than it makes her sound cool to us. I'm a white chick, so here I am going to link to someone who is not about why this can be problematic, and I think this is indeed a case for that, unfortunately. The character honestly does fit the description in this post, and I think that's something that should be looked at more closely.

Cover comments: This is a really cool cover. The book also has the second and third printed in the back, and they translate incredibly well to black and white. This is one of those "I see it, I want it, it's mine" library books, and it's just cool. There's also a good amount of crossover appeal - as much as I hate the idea of "boy books", this isn't a cover that would get anyone made fun of at school, shall we say. I love the starkness, too.

Conclusion: I want more of these. This is a book that knows how to appeal to Lainas. The characters are really interesting. The FBI stuff is fascinating. I would honestly read like three books about their training, even the fairly mundane stuff. It's so interesting. And the ending shocked me, honestly. This probably would have gotten four and a half roses from me, but it loses a half rose for the things mentioned before.

Other notes:

- I want pancakes so badly because of this book. Seriously, I need them immediately. Instead, I made a cheesecake. To be fair, cheesecake is wonderful. But it's not pancakes!

Peace and cookies,

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