Friday, March 28, 2014

Title: The Naturals
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Narrator(s): Amber Faith
Series: The Naturals, book #1
Length: 7 hrs 28 mins
Publisher: Listening Library
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Source: from publisher for review via Netgalley/audio from library
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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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.

Serial killer books are rather hit or miss for me, what with the mystery often falling flat or the gore being over-the-top, but I'd read a couple of Barnes' books before and enjoyed them, so I thought I'd give her attempt at a serial killer mystery a try. And I wasn't disappointed. This might actually be my favorite JLB book yet.

I rarely listen to an audiobook from start to finish in a single day, but I did with The Naturals. It was an average length audiobook, so it wasn't that it was short or anything. I just felt compelled to finish, to find out who the killer was and what their underlying motiviation was. It also helps that this newbie narrator was perfect for the role of Cassie. I've never heard anything narrated by Amber Faith before, and upon searching her history on Audible, I found that this was the only title listed. If this truly was her first audiobook, then she was very well cast. And I hope she'll be back for the sequel!

The serial killer aspect of this novel was intriguing and well-done, keeping me guessing till nearly the very end, but it was the characters that made this story as incredible as it was for me. They were so diverse, each with their own skill set and idiosyncrasies. There's Cassie, of course, who can sense what a person is like, what their intentions are, before they ever utter a word. Michael, the boy who helped lure her into the world of the Naturals, can sense emotions, tells, and scrutinizes your every facial expression to determine what you're thinking. Sloane is a statistician, mathematician, a number guru, and her blunt, to-the-point demeanor reminded me so much of Amy from The Big Bang Theory. Lia, who might have the most handy gift, is a human lie detector. And Dean, like Cassie, is a natural profiler...a brooding one. The game of Truth or Dare these kids play is all the more fun because of each of their special abilities.

The story is fraught with tension, between the Naturals all living in one house, between the Naturals and the figures of authority training them in their abilities, and because the serial killer is stepping up their game. I appreciated that we got a background story on most of the kids and that there wasn't a lot of info-dumping involved where the cases were concerned. The author took her time, weaving an intricate story, but the book reads fast and even a bit chaotic toward the end, leaving me wanting to re-listen for any details I might have missed in my rush to know all the things. And getting inside the killer's head -- like, actual portions that the killer narrated -- just upped the creepy-factor.

Adding to the tension in the house is the fact that both Michael and Dean have an interest in Cassie. And she shows mutual interest in both boys, for different reasons. As much as I liked the group dynamic in the house, I liked what was going on with these three so much more, and not just because of the romantic aspect. I don't love or hate romantic entanglements of a triangular nature; I just like to see a romance done right. And the way Cassie's feelings developed for each boy, and not just in a physical sense, was perfect. First and foremost, her goal is to find her mother's killer, so she tries to remain professional and only learn about each boy in a professional capacity, but in doing so, she grows to care about both boys and vice versa. Though both guys acted as rivals toward each other, the progression of the love triangle was natural and in the end, I found their responses and reactions to each other to be rather mature. I guess being gunned down by a psychopath will do that to you.

You know, the more I think about this novel, the more I find myself liking it. It had everything I'm looking for in a great read: action, suspense, romance, great characters, snarky dialogue. And it left me wanting more. I don't want to wait until November to catch up with the Naturals again!

GIF it to me straight:
I'm doing my happy dance because this book was even more awesome than I expected!

About the author:

Jennifer Lynn Barnes (who mostly goes by Jen) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has been, in turn, a competitive cheerleader, a volleyball player, a dancer, a debutante, a primate cognition researcher, a teen model, a comic book geek, and a lemur aficionado. She's been writing for as long as she can remember, finished her first full book (which she now refers to as a "practice book" and which none of you will ever see) when she was still in high school, and then wrote Golden the summer after her freshman year in college, when she was nineteen.

Jen graduated high school in 2002, and from Yale University with a degree in cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought) in May of 2006. She was awarded a Fulbright to do post-graduate work at Cambridge, and then returned to the states, where she is hard at work on her PhD.

Find Jen:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr


  1. I really enjoyed this one, too. I'm almost always a fan of serial killer books and I love it when you get to see glimpses from the killer's POV. (The Body Finder does this well, too. Have you read that one?) The triangle didn't bother me in this one either, and I liked that her focus was really more on finding out what happened to her mother. I was also pleasantly surprised that I didn't guess the killer right away. I was so happy to hear about the sequel. When I first read this it didn't say #1, but it definitely felt like the first in a series--even if the story was complete. I'm glad you enjoyed this, too! Great review!

  2. Mime told me she LOVED this! I just never got around to reading it, though, because she reviewed it sooo...what left is there for me to do? ;) Okay I'm KIDDING. But still. XD I like thrillers. It kind of makes me think of Gallagher Girls whenever I see the blurb, too.

  3. I saw this on the shelf during a trip to London some time back, thought it looked very interesting and then for some reason put it back and the shelf and promptly managed to forget all about it!

    Your review makes me want to see if I can pick it up somewhere and while I'm not too good with female audiobook narrators, I might even try that version.
    Thanks for reminding me! :)

    Camilla @

  4. Ahahahahaha, that is the perfect GIF.

    I am wondering if i would have loved this book more if I listened to it on audio. Hmmmm.

    Glad you enjoyed The Naturals though!


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