Early Book Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a young adult novel that is scheduled for release on November 7 2013. Cassie is seventeen and living with her father's extended family. Her mother was a stage psychic, before being murdered, and Cassie excels at skills her mother taught her, mainly reading the body language and little details about the people around her. One day while waitressing Cassie is approached by the FBI to join a special team of other teens with natural abilities. Joining the team would mean moving to Washington D.C. and helping to solve cold case files. Cassie cannot pass up the chance to solve her own mother's murder. However, no one on the team is quite what they seem and a new killer brings danger close to home. Cassie and unique team need to solve the case before one of them becomes a victim.

The Naturals has just about everything you could want from a young adult novel. There is a cast of quirky and well fleshed out characters that still defy categorization, a mystery or two to solve, action scenes with life and death scenario, teenage 'I do not fit in' angst, and romance (the required triangle of course). There is also strong young adult characters that while flawed hold true to their values, adults that are equally flawed, and an ending that had resolution but still left me wanting more.  Cassie is an independent, caring, and strong character. She is willing to risk herself to help others, but does not take foolish risks. Michael is snarky and seems overconfident but seems to be wearing that personality as a mask to protect himself, he is naturally skilled at reading emotions. Dean is a profiler like Cassie, he is the strong silent type who isolates himself and tries to control his temper with exercise. Lia is a vain, pretty teen who can tell when others are lying and the ability to lie to anyone. Sloane is a statistical genius and is more than a bit quirky. The team work with the FBI agents and are under the watchful eye of a caretaker while in the house. Of course, you throw this many teens in the house and there will be power struggles and romantic entanglements- however for the most part these are secondary to the set up of the plot and the mysteries that need solving. Cassie does spend a significant amount of time over-thinking everything, but that is part of being a sixteen year old girl.

The Naturals is at its heart a teen drama and a thriller. The danger is slow to evolve, and I was completely surprised by the final answer, even though I  had the 'bad guy' narrowed down to just three people by the time the full story was revealed. While readers might need to suspend their disbelief as they deal with the idea of people with the innate abilities or the idea of the FBI working with a teen of talented teens, others will just be able to shrug and move on. I was one that was not bothered by those two things, mainly because real life is so unbelievable these days that I feel like these is not so far fetched.

The Naturals is a good start to a new series. I really enjoy Barnes' writing style, and everything I loved about the characters in the Raised by Wolves series is here as well. Readers that like Cold Case, Criminal Minds, or any of the shows with a psychological look at crime solving will see something that they like in this series. I have not seen anything about the sequel to this book yet, but I will definitely be reading it when it is released.
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