Friday, November 8, 2013

Review: THE NATURALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (+Giveaway!)

Title: The Naturals
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publication date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: an ARC provided by the publisher for an honest review

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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 don't even know where to begin. I really don't. I read it a few days ago (from writing this review) and I have no idea how to express my feelings. If you want the bottom line, here it is: 

This was terrific. 

You know how when you're starving and you start eating a delicious meal, you have to force yourself to eat slower? All you really want to do is stuff your face and then hoard the pie in your room. The Naturals was like that. I've read good books recently (and some not-so-good), but not to the caliber as this one. I had to force myself to not read it all in one night because it was already way too late and I had class in the morning. I forced myself to not hide in my room too long because I have to socialize with the outside world ugh, socializing, who needs it?

After her mother died and her father went out of the country, Cassandra Hobbes was shipped off to her dad's family, a family she has never known and feels completely out of place with. They try their best and she even tries to be part of their boisterous Italian family. However, she can't help feeling like an out of place burden. Then she has a weird encounter with a guy at the restaurant she works at. That's where the fun begins.

She has an exchange with a guy at the restaurant she works in and he leaves an FBI card. After a couple days of curiosity, she calls and agrees to meet Agent Briggs (not the same guy who she had a guessing game of eggs with at the restaurant) at his office. There, she runs into Michael, the guy at the restaurant, who I instantly liked. 

He shrugged, "My inner Boy Scout had to try."
If this guy had an inner Boy Scout, I had an inner flamingo.

Cassie is a Natural. She's always had a knack for profiling people as if it was a sixth sense. Her mother used to teach her some things, but Cassie's ability isn't teachable or learnable. It was, cue the cheesy irony, natural. When Agent Briggs introduces her to the idea of being in a program where they train you to solve for cold case murders, Cassie knows she has to do it. Not only because she feels like she's out of place where she is now, but she also feels that maybe she could one day solve her mother's cold case murder. 

After that rundown of the beginning, I know some people don't like multiple main characters and plots to keep track of. However, in this story, it might seem like that at first, but it's very fast paced and very easy to understand. 

The characters: 
I loved the characters. It was all a diverse group even from the minor of the minor characters. Take her family for instance. Italian families can be frustrating, but I find them lovable. They care and show all their feelings. She described hers, even though she barely knew them, quite well. 

Nobody stages an intervention like my father's family stages an intervention. The Bat-Signal had nothing on the Battaglia-Signal, and less than twenty-four hours after Nonna sent out the distress call, the family had gathered force. There was yelling and screaming and crying—and food. Lots of food. 

I know she had to leave her family so that she could go to the program and be in the house with all the other Naturals, but I actually hated leaving the family. I wanted to know more about them. 

There are four other Naturals besides Cassie: 
  • Michael. He is an emotion reader. He can read your emotions and that can be unnerving for a girl. We meet Michael first and I personally loved him. With a little bit of mystery and lots of wit, I could just feel his smirk radiate off the pages. He seemed very kissable. 
  • Lia. She is a deception specialist. Basically, she's a human lie detector. With that, she's also the best at lying. Throughout the book, I couldn't tell if we were supposed to like her or distrust her, but I knew that I did like her a lot. Snarky, tough, witty, and with a splash of mean girl. She reminded me a lot of Macey from The Gallagher Girls
  • Sloane. She is a statistician. She spouts random facts and statistic, checks hypothesis, and is the weird, smart one of the bunch. Think Liz from The Gallagher Girls, but more dorky and socially awkward. 
  • Dean. He is another profiler. He's the last to be introduced and the most mysterious. He's portrayed as dark and has deep issues. Cassie is instantly intrigued by him and I will not say who I am more for, whether it be Dean or Michael. Because, yes, there is a love triangle.

That's the other thing: the love triangle. Beware, Lauren. I personally thought it was tastefully done. I picked my guy from the beginning, but Barnes does a fantastic job of keeping me torn throughout the book and making me question who she's even going to pick. The triangle wasn't the main focus of the book, thank goodness, but from memory, I feel that it was the best love triangle I've read. Besides The Hunger Games until Mockingjay, of course. 

Another thing that I loved about the book was the facts about how profilers work. I have always been interested with the FBI (you can see that in my DVR) so while there was some information dumping in parts, I liked them. I liked all the background information. These abilities that the group of kids have are not paranormal or supernatural. They're real. They may be dramatized a bit, but these skills are abilities I love to be entertained with through shows or books or movies. Barnes does a wonderful job of keeping it realistic, but entertaining.

In addition, there is certainly a creepy factor going on. The book starts with a page of someone talking to "You" and you will get a page of that after almost every chapter. We soon find out that "You" is to the serial killer. Because profiler Agent Locke, Cassie, and Dean say to never say "he" or "she," but to always reference the killer and victim as "you" or "I" or "UNSUB." I'm telling you guys, I was creeped out (and I promise that Banres does a way better job explaining that whole UNSUB thing). I loved getting inside the killer's head and looking at the victims through their eyes, but I don't read much mystery and creepy books. When you are spending the night at an elderly person's house next to a window, a non-lockable door, late at night, and you are the closest near the front door in this tiny would be spooked out as well. I get paranoid and I loved how my emotions varied during the book. 

I cannot even start to express my feelings on the twists. For the love of cupcakes, I loved the twists. Love is such an understatement. There were a couple "surprises" sprinkled throughout, but I guessed those. However, at about chapter 29, we hit the biggies. I felt like I was getting whipped around. Some of my exclamations and thoughts and verbal mutterings are below: 

"Oh my gosh." 
"THAT'S the killer! Wait...what? Who?"
"No! Really?"
"Oh my stinking gosh." Note: I don't curse so this is as close as I get. 
"This is wrong beyond all levels. I can't...I just can't."
*puts down book and tries to sleep, but fails and lays in bed for another hour*

Hands down, this book has been my favorite this year, except for United We Spy, of course. I had an extreme book hangover afterwards and it stopped my reading for a couple days because I knew that if I started to read another book, I wouldn't be invested into it as I was with The Naturals. Like every book, it had a couple flaws, but they were so minuscule that they didn't matter to me.

Verdict: Captivating. Wonderful. Brought out all the reader emotions. Can I have the sequel NOW? 


There's more! Because I loved it so much, I want to give you all a chance to win and read it as well. 

The Three Rules:
  • Thou shalt not cheat
  • Thou shall answer the winner's email in 48 hours or less
  • Thou shall live in the USA (sorry)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: The quotes were taken from an ARC. 


  1. I loved your review! I'd enter the giveaway, but I just ordered The Naturals on Wednesday and it's due in any day. I can't wait to read the rest of the book; the first 50 pages were ah-mazing.

    1. Thank you, Emma! Woo! That's great, I can't wait for you to read the rest of it. When you finish, we can discuss it!

  2. WOW. You have me completely reconsidering this one now. I keep going back and forth with it (on one hand, I LOVE the premise, but the love triangle is a major put-off) and I literally just decided yesterday that I was going to skip it for now. I guess I need to rethink that! :D I'm so glad it impressed you, Sunny. I love when plot twists manage to catch you completely off-guard like that. i hope it manages to do the same to me! Lovely review as always. :)

    1. I definitely see that. I didn't even know about the love triangle before so I'm glad I didn't go into it with hesitation. I did start to worry when it was introduced, but man, I fell in love with the story. I'm glad you're now reconsidering!

  3. Okay, I am absolutely, most definitely, 100% going to read this! Lol - and I totally understand all of those feelings you described in your first paragraph. :D

  4. I wish I wasn't so behind on my reviews... I can't wait to get to this one! :) Great review, sweets!

  5. I would be MIchael because of reading emotions. You can tell a lot about someone from their emotions!! This book sounds like its going to be awesome- Thanks for the giveaway!!!!!

  6. Love your review!!! So glad you loved this one too. :) I thought the whole FBI/natural aspect was so cool and all the characters were amazing (Lia and Sloane reminded me of Macy and Liz too) and the "You" thing was so creepy! I also loved that you added some of your exclamations that you made while reading, because, YES, they perfectly describe the reading process of this book. :) Now *rubs hands together* when can we get ahold of Book #2? ;)

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

    1. So, so glad that you read this one because it's just...AMAZING. I agree, I want it. Like now.

  7. Man, this is the second rave review for this book that I've read this morning. So I need to order it, eh? So it can languish on my Kindle while my review books stare accusingly at me? So I am wracked with guilt? THANKS A LOT, SUNNY.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  8. I had heard of this book previously, but I was a bit "meh" about whether or not I wanted to read it. That is, until I read your review. I love creepiness, crime fiction, and plot twists, so your convincing thoughts have me very excited. Also, Gallagher Girl-esque characters? I'm sold.

    As for which character I'd want to be, I'd love to borrow Michael's powers sometimes. I'm not that bad at reading emotions, but we all have moments where some extra clarification about the people around us would be nice.

    1. I think you would really like it!

      That's what I think! I can usually read people's emotions pretty well, but it would be good to know if I was really right.

  9. To be honest, I wasn't sold until I read that little "my thoughts during chapter 29" section. The book doesn't really sound like my kind of thing, but I love it when you have that kind of reaction to a book, and I hope (if I do read it, which I'm going to try to) something similar! Great review.

  10. Loved your review, I'm even more excited to read this book now. I'd have to go with Sloane, I'd deal with the social awkwardness in exchange for the super smarts. Thanks for the giveaway!

  11. I'm glad I read your review, Sunny because the cover wouldn't have attracted my attention at all. This sounds amazing! I love mysteries and FBI stories and the premise of these kids having a special talent for profiling adds a bigger draw for me. I'll have to check this out. Wonderful review! :)