Teens against crime in The Naturals series


A tense heartbeat is all it takes for the Naturals to crack cases. Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ novel “The Naturals,” is a mystery thriller that exceeds expectations with unforgettable characters and a plot filled with suspense.

The story follows 17-year-old Cassie Hobbes, a FBI recruit who is skilled in profiling people. Her aptitude at figuring out people’s identities lands her a spot in the Naturals program for talented teens. Cassie’s subsequent recruitment seems suspiciously convenient as it should be impossible for her talent to be noticeable.  After her recruitment, she moves to Quantico, Virginia, and begins training to solve cold cases, when serial murders relating to her presumably deceased mother begin to appear in the area.

Until the appearance of clues relating to the murderer, the beginning was slow paced as the characters wander aimlessly. However, once evidence does arrive, the plot quickly picks up as the Naturals race to find the murderer before more people are brutally killed. Barnes consistently uses the final few sentences of each chapter as cliffhangers for the next chapter, which, while infuriating, left me craving more.

The dynamic among the Naturals, Sloane, Lia, Dean, Michael and Cassie, along with their chilling backstories, creates a great deal of character depth in the novel. Each character uses his or her gifts to play around the with the heads of their targets as well as to provoke one another. Lia uses her ability to tell and catch lies both to nail suspects and to put her friends in awkward situations. Michael uses his talent at recognizing emotion to antagonize the other Naturals while determining out the motives of the killers.  

Although character development throughout the novel was present, it was focused only on Cassie alone. She matures from a naĂŻve child into a strong individual, hardened by her experience working against serial killers. The remainder of the characters remain static throughout the novel.

Barnes takes the page following each chapter’s end as an opportunity to put the reader in the killer’s shoes by adding a short section of text that reveals the killer’s psychological needs. The short feature on the killer acts as a vehicle, adding suspense to the novel. Although the detail used in the serial killer’s spotlight was very intriguing, I found the victims’ deaths to be slightly more graphic than necessary.

In “The Naturals,” Barnes utilizes her degrees in psychology and cognitive science to create a well-written mystery that delves into the psyche and motivation behind serial killers. Although I would have liked to see more plot development, I still found the book to be a fantastic read.

By Isaac Le, Staff writer

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The Breakdown

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