Friday, May 23, 2014

The naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Life with her fathers large (and very Italian) family has settled into a routine for seventeen year old Cassandra "Cassie" Hobbes, but there is always something missing.  Growing up with her mother, it wasn't until her mother was murdered that Cassie came to live with her fathers family - even though they never found her mothers body the crime scene left little doubt that her mother was truly gone.  With her father deployed overseas Cassie lives with her Nonna, and works at a diner as a waitress.  It is at work that she first meets an intriguing young man who gives her a business card from the FBI - a card with the note "Cassandra please call" scrawled on the back.  When she calls the number on the card she discovers Agent Briggs and the naturals.

Cassie is a natural, because of the way she was raised Cassie is a natural profiler - she can read people with a level of skill that takes most people years (even decades) to achieve.  A small team in the FBI taps the potential of naturals to help solve cold cases, grooming them for a career with the FBI.  In a very small space of time Cassie leaves everything she has known and enters the strange new world of naturals where she discovers there are more than just natural profilers - there is the human lie detector who can tell if you are lying, the statistician who can read patterns and interpret huge amounts of data, there is the emotion reader who shares few emotions of his own, and of course there is the other profiler.

They are supposed to work on cold cases, stay away from real crime scenes, and learn the skills that will make them crack FBI agents when they "grow up" - but someone has other plans.  A murderer has been leaving bodies here and there, bodies far from home and in different states so that they will be harder to track.  A killer with a goal in mind, and that goal is Cassie.  When Cassie makes a connection between the murders and her own life it seems as though the FBI will have to accept her help and the help of the other naturals, but Agent Briggs and his boss don't want to risk their little pet project and Cassie soon realises she is going to have to make some decisions of her own.  To get to the truth she so desperately wants Cassie is going to have to risk it all - and she has no idea just how much she has to lose.

The naturals was completely absorbing from the first page, an addictive and adrenaline fuelled ride of highs and lows and twists and turns that leaves you wondering "whodunit" from the first page to the mind bending conclusion.  Cassie and her world could be just around the corner, a secret world where government agencies tap into the potential of the next generation and mould them into the perfect federal agents who can operate without all the cumbersome trappings of computers and machinery.  The blend of viewing the world from Cassie's point of view, and the killers point of view cranks up the tension and keeps you guessing about what will; happen next, and then something mind blowing happens and you don't care what comes next because what is happening now is just so much more important. 

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is an amazing writer who has a deft touch when it comes to balancing strong characters and keeping the action moving - too many authors fail to create a rich world and clearly defined characters without swamping the action with too much detail, that is not the case with Barnes.  There are only a handful of authors who have been able to do justice to the idea of teen special agents or spies, and while this is not your typical teen secret agent novel, Barnes deserves a place in this genre.  I seriously hope there will be more books set in Cassie's world, although the way The naturals was written, and the premise of the series means this may not happen - which would be a real shame.

If you like this book then try:
  • I hunt killers by Barry Lyga
  • Acceleration by Graham McNamee
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Guy Langman, crime scene procrastinator by Josh Berk
  • A girl named Digit by Annabel Monahgan
  • The Christopher killer by Alane Ferguson
  • Nickel plated by Aric Davis
  • Dead to you by Lisa McMann
  • Crime seen by Jenny Pausacker
  • Burning blue by Paul Griffin
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott

Reviewed by Brilla

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