Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading … The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just Finished Reading … The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
To be published on November 5, 2013
by Disney-Hyperion

Source: requested e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley

Connect with the author: website | Twitter.
Summary from author's website: 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. Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms close. 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 take:  I was nervous as I started reading The Naturals. Nervous because I've read lots and lots and lots of thrillers and this one seemed to be working every trick in the book. Heroine with a tragic past is invited to join a secret team of teenagers who consult with the FBI. Secret team is a Scooby Gang of quirky, talented misfits who serve as human computers and lie detectors. Serial killer targets our tragic heroine and speaks to the reader in a crazy-talk, italicized POV …. mwah-ha-ha … let the games begin!

I've seen all this before, and yet The Naturals still made it seem fun and enjoyable. I do love a good Scooby Gang, and this one was interesting. Michael channels Hale from the Heist Society, albeit with an anger management problem. Lia is a compulsive liar and kleptomaniac who can also spot others' lies. Sloane is the requisite nerd. And then there's Dean, the broody one. I won't tell you his secret (which is also one I've seen before) but it's a good one and he plays it well. Cassie is an appealing protagonist, not a TSLT heroine in distress. There is a bit of a love-triangle-y vibe, but on my scale of love triangle awfulness, this one ranks pretty low.

The five teens are living in a house together (think The Real World meets the Mentalist) and only given cold cases to solve by their FBI supervisors. But these supervisors are also handling active cases, so while they're off solving crimes, the kids begin to work on a real case, exposing themselves to danger.

If you've read a lot of crime fiction, much of the book will be familiar to you, terminology like unsubs and signatures and M.O.'s and the whole hunter-becomes-the-hunted trope. I think the key to using tropes is to pick the good ones and mix them well, and The Naturals does that. The book also does a great job of bringing creepy serial killer suspense to the YA crowd without either dumbing it down or using gratuitous gore. As the ending unfolded, I was impressed. I did not see it coming, and it actually made sense. (Often the two are mutually exclusive.)

It seems as though this book has "series potential" and I hope that is the case, because I'd be happy to read more!

25 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this one too! I agree with everything you wrote and had the same fears going in. I am really excited to read more in this series. Great review!

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    1. I really miss the Body Finder series and I think this is a bit like that. I really enjoyed it!

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  2. I'm about 1/3 of the way through this one and I'm really liking it so far-I feel like the writing is very snappy and I'm having a lot of fun. Can't wait to see how everything pans out since you know I'm horrible at figuring these things out.

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    1. It's enjoyable for a serial killer read. I liked that -- it was scary without being too gruesome.

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  3. Can't believe I haven't heard of this one before today! Sounds good though.

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  4. I need to dig this out of my ARC cabinet! JLB's books have always been hit or miss with me, but this one sounds good.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

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  5. This is another author whos books I'm behind on reading! I love her other books, so I have definitely have to read this one.

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    1. I'm not such a werewolf fan, so I haven't read those. But I liked this!

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  6. I haven't read much crime novels, but this sounds intersting.

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    1. It might make a good change-up from your usual reading. Give it a try!

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  7. I loved your Scooby Gang reference. :) Looking forward to reading this one.

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    1. I am the hugest Scooby fan. It is my life dream to get my family to dress up as the gang. So far they have resisted me...

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  8. Great review! I've had this one on my TBR for awhile now. I've read her "Raised by Wolves" series and enjoyed her writing. I'm hoping to get to this one some time in the future. I'm really happy to see you liked it! :-)

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    1. I haven't read RBW -- not the biggest were fan -- but I liked her writing a lot. Hope you enjoy this :)

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  9. Haha Great review! I'm really looking forward to this one now. I was a little because I've had a rocky start with Barnes's work before, but now I'm interested in giving her another shot.

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    1. This was my first book by her, and I really enjoyed it!

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  10. I love this group. I'm so looking forward to reading this. Great review, Jen!

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  11. You had me at Scooby gang and "Michael channels Hale from Heist Society." :)

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  12. Oh good, I'm glad to hear this was enjoyable! When the plot holds no surprises but you enjoy it anyway--I think that's actually the mark of a story well told. Thanks for the review Jen, I was curious about this one and was waiting to see some reviews.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  13. I love your Scooby & Gang reference-and the fun breakdown of the characters, that alone makes me want to check it out besides the mystery that features a scary serial killer that's not "dumbed down" for YA. :)

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  14. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one despite it not being the most original of setups. The characters do sound interesting, and I also am a big fan of Scooby Gangs. I think I'll give this one a read after all (I wasn't planning on it before this). Great review!

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  15. I've been really wanting to read this one so I'm glad you enjoyed it! I love the whole FBI enlisting teens idea and the set up reminds me a little of way Dark Visions by LJ Smith was set up. 5 kids living in a house, minimum supervision, and using their gifts to solve a mystery together. I've always loved books like that. Definitely will be reading this one, especially after you mentioned one of the characters channeling Hale from Heist Society. Um, yes, please ;)

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  16. I think this is being developed for a TV show... which could mean anything, but wouldn't that be AMAZING? I really enjoyed this one, too!

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