Cassie’s mother taught her a lot of things — including how to read people. But Cassie’s ability is far more than just figuring out clues about a person in order to give them a psychic reading. She has a natural ability as a profiler — something the FBI is aware of and wants to take advantage of.
Recruited to a team of fellow teens with natural abilities (Dean can profile, Lea can read if you’re lying, Sloane is gifted in reciting facts and figures and Michael can really, really read people), Cassie is promised that she’ll get to enhance her abilities and maybe use the FBI resources to finally track down who killed her mother.
The world that Jennifer Lynn Barnes has created for her The Naturals series is a fascinating one. The idea that there would be five teens who would come together as a kind of Criminal Minds for the younger set works very well. It also creates a very bizarre household where there are body outlines in the swimming pool, a test lab in the basement and a library full of cold cases for Cassie to train on.
When The Naturals sticks its procedural aspects, it works very well. I’ll give Barnes a lot of credit — she was able to put in enough red herrings as to who the central villain of this novel was to keep me guessing (wrongly as it turns out) over the entire run of the book.
It’s when The Naturals gives us the young adult trope of a love triangle and a conflicted girl trying to choose between two competing guys that I found myself rolling my eyes and wanting to fast forward the audio book. Dean and Michael both engage in a contest to try and woe Cassie and she’s clearly torn between the two. But as I listened to the audio version of this book, I couldn’t help but wonder why these two guys were so into. Beyond the mystery surrounding her mother, there really isn’t a lot of detail given about Cassie. There’s not much reason given to why the guys are so in love with her other than she’s our narrator and entry point into this world.
At times, I found myself thinking that a book told from Sloane or Lia’s point of view might be a bit more interesting.
I suppose I should just be thanking my lucky stars that there are no sparkly vampires or misunderstood mythical creatures lurking in these pages.
And while Cassie may lack the depth I was hoping for, I will admit that Barnes creates enough of a backstory for Michael and Dean that we can see why Cassie is torn between them. Both offer positives and negative reasons why Cassie could or should choose one or the other.
Luckily Barnes keeps the angst to a minimum, concentrating more on the team and the serial killer who may be targeting Cassie. The final few chapters and the big reveal are all well earned by Barnes and the questions about if and how this ties into the fate of Cassie’s mother are intriguing enough.
They’re intriguing enough that despite my eye-rolling at the love triangle, I’m willing and interested enough to give the next installment in this series a try.
I’ll also say that the book was a great listen. I happily fired it up while pounding out the miles and it held my attention for the entire run. Part of this is a great book and part of it is great narration by Amber Faith. Her performance as Cassie got into my head enough that now that I’m reading the second installment in print, I can hear Faith’s narration in my head.