Thursday, March 8

A Series To Binge #1: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

   



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.



The plot gets better and darker with each book. I am so very impressed with the way the author built-up the series. See, I fairly enjoyed The Naturals, I really liked Killer Instinct, I loved All In, but I was absolutely blown away by Bad Blood. SO MANY THINGS CONNECTED, and like, yes, THIS is how you write a great, psychological thriller series. I need more like this, and I need it NOW.


The Naturals, as in the first book, is a bit like an introduction to the characters and the naturals program that the FBI created. Around 50% of the novel is dedicated to Cassie studying profiling for the first time in her life, and getting to know her surroundings and "colleagues". The case itself is not even revealed until after the halfway mark, which might scare some of you away, BUT PLEASE DON'T LET THAT HAPPEN. The characters, their skills and the program itself is so interesting that I guarantee you will not be bored. 

The rest of the books each have a case throughout their entirety, and the cases of the last two novels are strongly connected, so I'd definitely recommend having book four ready when you finish book three. You'll thank me later.


As for the cases, all four of them are so freaking intriguing, and, again, they get truly dark as we near the ending of the series. You know, I was a bit doubtful when I saw The Naturals being compared to Criminal Minds, because CM has EVERYTHING I need in a good crime show. After reading the series, however, I can definitely say that The Naturals fully lives up to that comparison. The only aspect in which it differs from CM is that the characters are young and more inexperienced at their "jobs" than that of Criminal Minds. Which is, of course, understandable, plus, it was great fun to see them growing into themselves and bettering their talents.

The little chapters that give us a glimpse into the killer's mind add a lot to the series. These were present in each book, and the fact that they were in second person only made them creepier. Especially in Bad Blood, I had literal chills while reading these snippets. So real, so well-written, so brutal.



The characters will make you want to be part of the naturals team. Each and every character is well-crafted, complex and so very lovable even when they are getting on your nerves. As a group, they work incredibly well. They know each others' strengths and weaknesses and they are a powerful force to be reckoned with.


“Home isn't a place, Cassie.' The memory crept up on me. 'Home is the people who love you most, the people who will always love you, forever and ever, no matter what.” 

Cassie, the narrator, is a fierce friend who, throughout the series, put the others' needs in front of her own multiple times. I loved the way she immediately started to profile everyone she met. Like, I want to be able to do that?? That sounds so cool. Also, can she profile ME, because haha, I don't even know what I want, so can she tell me right now. She's the only one who had an upbringing that was filled with love, as well as the only character with a reliable, nice family, which appears in the way she is always looking for the good in people. 



Sloane, aka my favorite, is THE MOST PRECIOUS CHARACTER EVER. She has a kickass memory, she is quite the hacker, she is amazing with numbers and stats, but... not so much with people. Which is totally fine! But, sadly, she was conditioned to think there was something wrong with her from a very early age, so she is hesitant when it comes to emotions. If you need more reason than that to love her - she reminds me a great deal of Reid from Criminal Minds.


Sloane slipped an arm around my waist. "There are fourteen varieties of hugs," she said. "This is one of them."



Michael, ALSO MY FAVORITE, seemed sort of like a typical cocky, fun guy, but as the series progresses, we see more and more of who he really is. It is revealed pretty early on that he has been abused by his dad, and the whole situation he is in is so fucked up and made me so angry that I had to put down the books various times. Despite acting as if he doesn't give a shit about anything, he is an incredible friend and would do anything to help those he loves. 

Lia whose story, I think, was revealed last, could be so very annoying omfg, BUT she is also a really precious character. She is super-bad at expressing emotions, but she is surprisingly great at seeing which one of her friends are at a low point, which she showcased in All In. At which point, of course, she gives them all the support she can. She might not tell you outright that she loves you, BUT she will go to the end of the world to protect you, and will show you in a thousand different ways how much she cares.


Dean had one of the most.... exceptional childhoods from the series. I'm not going to spoil anything, but woah, poor guy. He is sort of brooding and can be rude, which annoyed me SO BADLY at first, because I'm tired of that cliche. I forgave that because (1) he was a lot more than those two things, and (2) his broody-ness was made fun of later in the series, even BY HIM. Which was hella funny, tbh.


“Sterling turned to Michael. I expected her to ask him something, but instead she just held out her hand. "Keys."

"Spatula," Michael replied. She narrowed her eyes at him. "We aren't just saying random nouns?" he asked archly.”

The adult characters are also pretty kickass, which is just so refreshing. Like I said, only Cassie had remaining and decent family, but omfg, her grandma is amazing. She barely had any parts, but what we see of her? Freaking queen. Judd, a retired marine who lives with the naturals and is in charge of them, was another epic character. He gave them freedom to commit mistakes, but he could get pretty mad and disappointed when they disrespected the rules in a way that endangered them. He also went head to head with the director of the freaking FBI when it came to the safety of the teens under his charge, and was such a lovely parent-figure in the novel. The agents in charge of the program were also fantastic additions to the series, especially after book one. YOU'LL SEE WHAT I MEAN.



First of all, let's get the romance out of the way, because that was my least favorite thing in the series. A love triangle was introduced in the first book, and it lasted until the end of the second book. Which, to be honest, is a pretty reasonable length, especially considering that in the second book, it was already clear who Cassie would choose. The reason I furiously hated it, however, was that a) they all lived together so it was very awkward, b) some of the lines made me physically cringe, and c) Lia was into Michael all through it, so that made this a love-square, WHICH IS EVEN WORSE THAN A TRIANGLE.

I also felt like Cassie picked the wrong guy?? I obviously cannot go into detail about it without spoilers, but I felt like she and the other guy would be better together. Another relationship is formed later on in the novel, which was very meh, in my opinion. Sloane, however, found herself a girlfriend so that was adorable, and I needed 10000x more of that, and less of all this.

As for the relationships I loved, the sibling-like relationship between Dean and Lia was EVERYTHING. They were the first two people taking part in the naturals program, and lived together for years before anyone else joined their ranks. The way they were so very protective of each other made me beam a lot, and cherish their characters even more. 

"Do. You. Like. Me." Michael repeated the question, this time with gestures.
"You have your moments," Dean mumbled.
"What was that?" Michael cupped his ears.
"I don't have to like you," Dean snapped back. "We're family."


Like I said, Sloane, Lia, Cassie, Michael and Dean formed this truly epic team, and Jennifer Lynn Barnes did an epic job of portraying the development of this relationship. I believe, in each book there was a scene where the character hanged out together, as a group. At first, these hang outs ended in disaster, with one or more of the characters storming out. Later, however, they all had such great dynamics between them, which showed in hang-outs and the way they worked together on cases.


Have you read this fantastic series? Perhaps, something else by Jennifer Lynn Barnes? Do you have any recommendations that are similar to this? What was the last series you binged? 

2 comments:

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  2. I've seen this before, but never read the synopsis. It sounds really intriguing, but I admit the tell-tale sign of love-triangle in the synopsis turns me off. Like from all of the Naturals the ones mentioned in the synopsis is our mc and two other guys? Yeahh :/ But since you said its only last for two books, I might consider giving this book a chance. Great review, and thanks for sharing!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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