Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Naturals (The Naturals, Book 1)
Quercus (UK: 7th November 2013); Disney-Hyperion (US: 7th October 2014)
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In a world where book packaging and retellings are all the rage, it’s not hard to imagine someone watching Criminal Minds, or whatnot, while thinking, “How can I make this YA?”
Whilst Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Naturals is NOT the result of book packaging or retelling, its concept requires too much suspension of disbelief. The FBI is adult. These “Naturals” are teenagers, who are supposedly better at crime-solving than the FBI. Even though FBI agents go through strenuous training and years on the job, these teens’ abilities are “natural”, rather than learned. Nothing paranormal – just Special Snowflakes.
Minus the chapters from the killer’s point of view, you’d be surprised to go through 100 pages (a third) of the book until the case is even mentioned. Even later for the teens to get involved. Generally speaking, origin stories (of how someone joins a group) make better prequel novellas, rather than wasting time in a novel. But without the origin story here, you only have roughly 200 pages (or less) of relevance.
The main character is completely superfluous. The Naturals already have all the bases covered without her: a lie detector, a probability calculator, an emotion-reader, and a profiler. If Cassie Hobbes had a different ability, her presence would be justified. Instead, she’s just another profiler.
But apparently Cassie and the other profiler, Dean Redding, have some complementary thing where she presents the victim’s POV and he presents the killer’s. They’re love interests, too, so…kind of creepy. But this is part of a love triangle, mind you – Cassie must choose between moody Dean and fun Michael. We’ve read enough YA romance to know that Cassie and Dean are soul mates, or some tripe, so the love triangle just seems like time-wasting.
The case turns out to be about Cassie, as if to justify her inclusion, but…still not impressive.
As someone interested in psychology, The Naturals should’ve worked for me. Maybe it would’ve, if I’d turned off my brain’s logic. But I shouldn’t have to stop thinking in order to enjoy something.