Series: The Naturals #1
Published by Quercus on November 7th 2013
Cassie Hobbes is not like most teenagers. Most teenagers don’t lose their mother in a bloody, unsolved kidnapping. Most teenagers can’t tell who you are, where you’re from and how you’re likely to behave within moments of meeting you. And most teenagers don’t get chosen to join The Naturals.
Identified by the FBI as uniquely gifted, Cassie is recruited to an elite school where a small number of teens are trained to hone their exceptional abilites.
For Cassie, trying to make friends with the girls, and to figure out the two very different, very hot boys, is challenging enough. But when a serial killer begins recreating the details of her mother’s horrific crime scene, she realises just how dangerous life in The Naturals could be...
I’m always a little wary of books about teens with special abilities, detective skills, mini FBI agents etc because there’s always a big chance it’ll come off a bit cheesy “Doogie Howser” but happily THE NATURALS was far from it! Fast paced fun and utterly thrilling, I was hooked from start to finish.
Cassie lives with her Nonna and extended Italian family after her father is posted overseas by the air force. Haunted by the murder of her mother five years ago, Cassie keeps her head down going to school and working part-time as a waitress. When a handsome customer leaves a card with the name and number of a special agent from the FBI along with a handsome tip, Cassie is sure she is finally about to get some answers to her mother’s brutal passing.
Meeting with SA Tanner Briggs Cassie realises the answers she seeks will have to wait as the Agent invites her to join a crack team of teens with special abilities just like her.
Before I started reading THE NATURALS I thought this was going to have a paranormal slant with the abilities being psychic, telekinetic etc but it was far from my theory which made it all the more realistic and fun. Cassie has a talent to profile people by examining their habits, clothes, stance and choices from which she can naturally build a profile of a person in seconds which would take someone who studied behavioural science a lot longer.
Other members of the team can read micro expressions to examine whether a person is lying, their emotional state, how their actions will determine certain outcomes and probabilities. Cassie realises this is a chance for her to finally get the hands on experience and resources she needs to find out the truth about her mother and agrees to join the team. Will Cassie get the answers she is looking for or is she simply asking for a whole lot of trouble?
THE NATURALS was a really compelling read and I loved how Barnes didn’t gloss over any aspects of criminal profiling when the characters examined cases simply because it was Young Adult. Instead we get right into the nitty gritty and the terrifying parts of human psychology with no let up. I adore shows such as Criminal Minds and Lie to Me so the examination of how a profile is built by deconstructing the complexities of human behaviour was fascinating. It was also chilling and gruesome how Cassie and fellow teen profiler Dean would personalise their profile by actively using pronouns such as You and I to get into the mindset of the killer to guess the patterns and signatures of their crimes.
The emotional impact of putting oneself in the killer’s “shoes” was clear to see and the exhaustion and turmoil the characters are put through made me sympathise and connect with them all the more. I also loved how the talents of the other members of the group such as Lia (Natural lie detector), Michael (Emotions expert) and Sloane (Statistician genius) were put to use to build an overall view of a case and how wildly different their training and approach to the same subject was.
I enjoyed all the characters and while I wished for a little more character development I felt I got a handle on all of them and their unique personalities. I was particularly fond of Sloane, Cassie’s quirky roommate and Dean, the young profiler carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
There is of course romance and there is a bit of a love triangle but honestly it didn’t bother me. I felt the romance overall was a complement to the story and didn’t overwhelm it. The resolution of the cases always took precedence and I was hooked into trying to figure out the answers.
The pacing and tension never let up, building nicely until the stunning climax that I honestly didn’t see coming. Throughout the book I was constantly guessing who the killer was and was wrong at every turn so the final reveal was fabulous.
THE NATURALS was unique and equal parts thrills, spills and chills and I was thoroughly engrossed and am really looking forward to the next book! Loved it.