Friday, February 20, 2015

Why You Should Read "The Naturals"

I've had a few interviews lately. College interviews, to be precise, for scholarships and honors programs. And while questions vary from college to college and program to program, there is one question that keeps popping up.
Name two unassigned books you have read recently, and tell us why you liked them/would recommend them.
Not only has this been asked in interview, it has been asked on applications. My thoughts upon hearing this time after time? They look something like this. "Oh gosh, which two which two . . . they have to be good, with meaning and traits that impress people. Should I mention that one nonfiction book I read on Myers-Briggs? No, because that isn't what I usually read. Would be dishonest to misrepresent myself. Oh well. Which book did I read last? Ah. That Christian fantasy; that's good we'll work from there . . ." Of course, the interviewer sits there staring at me while I try to make up my mind. xD
I realized, however, that despite my general indecision there is one book I consistently mention. I would like to introduce you all to it today, because it is amazing and you should all read it RIGHT THIS MOMENT.
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
So, first of all can I mention that I love the creative cover design? Police tape and a gift box. Very cool.
Next, here's my hopefully-persuasive speech on the actual book.
The Naturals is a YA mystery/thriller with a small element of speculative fiction. The plot centers on Cassie, a seventeen year old with a natural ability to profile people (think about what Sherlock Holmes does and you have some idea of what this actually is) at a glance. Though she's only a waitress at a diner, the FBI takes notice of her skills and involves her in the Naturals Program, which is essentially a group of teenagers with inborn talents in crime investigation. There is a girl who is a walking database and can deal with numbers and statistics like a computer (she tends to deal with people in the same way), a boy who can read anyone's emotions just by glancing at their face, a girl who can detect lies but tells them even better, and another boy who can naturally profile people, like Cassie. The Naturals are used by the FBI to investigate cold-case serial murders, which is a bit of a sensitive job for a few of the characters due to back story. Makes for interesting drama, I'll tell you . . . Anyway, in this first book of the series the Naturals get themselves embroiled in a most definitely not cold case because the serial killer involved has the MO of the murderer of Cassie's mother.

I love this book so much because one, PLOT TWISTS. Barnes was a natural at laying false trails and then shocking you out of your comfy reading chair with killer twists.
Second, CHARACTERS. All of them were so realistic! Most of them have secrets, they all have pain, they all have different coping mechanisms, their dialogue styles are different, they have different senses of humor, and they're teenagers so they have all this inter-teenager drama that goes on and then there's rebellion against the FBI agents trying to control a houseful of strangely talented and messed up teens. It's amazing.
Third, PSYCHOLOGY. Barnes is actually a psychologist herself, so it is no surprise that not only are the characters brilliant and realistic, but the book details the process of profiling the criminals - which Cassie and the other profiler have to do in order to solve the cases. This can actually get pretty creepy, but I think it's an accurate portrayal of what criminal psychology is. Not really all that fun. But it isn't all creepiness - watching the emotion-reader try to duke it out with Cassie as a profiler is pretty funny. I love how Cassie starts deducing the personalities and back stories of everyone she meets from little details. Due to my interest in how different people work and think I found this element of the book fascinating.
Fourth, EVERYTHING ELSE. Name something a good book has. Fast pace? Understandable, easily read writing style? Engaging plot? Drama? Hint of romance? Check check check check check. Secrets? They abound; check! Action? Check. Puzzles to figure out? Check. Grip-the-book-so-hard-you-dent-the-cover suspense? MOST DEFINITELY POSITIVELY CHECK.

However I must warn you all that this isn't a book for everyone. Barnes writes several pages interspersed with the normal chapters from the perspective of the serial killer. They're written in italics, so they're easy to spot and skip if you feel like you need to, and there's nothing anywhere else in the book that might make someone's stomach churn. These little pages have nothing truly graphic, but Barnes, as I said, was incredibly good with her character development - including that of the serial killer. I think she left those little bits in to portray just how truly sick and evil the mind of a serial killer is.
Even if you don't want to read those I truly recommend reading the book. As I said, they're easy to skip, and the rest of the book is so incredible. Plus, the little tiny VERY FEW sections aren't intrinsic to understanding the plot. Seriously, this is one of my favorite books I've ever read. I challenge you to find a better YA mystery.
What's more is that I hold this book up as a role model for my WIPs. If I could only imitate Barnes's plot twists and characters I'm sure I would be happy forever.
I linked the cover image above to the Goodreads page, if you'd like to check this one out further. The Naturals also has a sequel called Killer Instinct. It was just as good as the first, so don't stop at the first book. I think a third book has also just been scheduled for release.

So, have I convinced you or scared you away? Let me know if you will/have already read it and what you thought of it. Maybe we can fangirl together. xD

I also updated the "Writer Lingo" page again for anyone who is interested. New words include "subplot" and "research."


  1. Well, you've convinced me! I'm hooked. :) *adds to Goodreads list*

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  4. I haven't read The Naturals, but it sounds like I should. My TBR keeps getting bigger xD

    1. Yes, yes you should. And I know what you mean. Mine is expanding thanks to reviews on a certain blog (ehem, the above Aimee Meester).

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