**I received this book for free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Release Information: 5 November 2013 from Disney-Hyperion
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Summary: 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.
Thoughts: I knew I wanted to read The Naturals from the moment I heard it described as a YA Criminal Minds. Then, I found out it is written by one of my favorite authors. I’ve come to look forward to all of Barnes’ books because she does a great job of creating these incredibly readable stories that still have a lot going on beneath the surface. The Naturals lived up to my expectations. I finished the book in two sittings only because going to work forced me to put the book down.
I loved the mystery and the profiling in this book. The main narrative is interspersed with brief second person snapshots of a serial killer that we later learn to be written from a profiler’s point of view. These snapshots worked to keep the main serial killer mystery present throughout the book even when Cassie is focused on other things, like learning how to profile. I enjoyed Cassie’s lessons in profiling and they kept me satisfied while I waited for the murders to get personal.
Even though I loved the mystery, it is the characters that made this book for me. The Naturals is full of the broken characters I love so much. Cassie grew up on the road with her “psychic” mother, who taught her how to read people. This, along with finding her mother’s dressing room covered in blood, has kept Cassie from making real connections with other people. Seeing Cassie with the other naturals put her on an even playing field and I loved watching her learn how to interact with people in an authentic way. This also explains why there is a small love triangle. Cassie can’t read Dean and Michael the way she can read everybody else, so it makes sense that she struggles to understand what she feels about them.
Favorite Moments: Truth or Dare. There are a ton of exciting moments, but my favorite is the one where all of the naturals are together and emotionally vulnerable.
WTF Moments: There are a lot of moments designed to be WTF moments, but I think my favorite is when you learn about Dean’s past. I loved it because not only did I not expect it, but the moment packed a complicated emotional punch as well.
Overall: This book is delightful in a dark way and I am absolutely looking forward to more in this world.