by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Miramax, $17.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 1423168232, November 2013
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. 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.
I expected this book to be really hokey, but I didn’t expect it to be so fun. True, the premise of the FBI hiring superteens to solve cases trained adult agents can’t is pretty flimsy, and true, readers can probably go through the book saying “This wouldn’t happen, and this wouldn’t happen, and this wouldn’t happen,” but it’s all in pure escapist fun. It’s your usual teen boarding school drama with a heavy CSI bent. The teens in the story happen to be at a boarding school where they learn to use their gifts to track down criminals. Cassie’s a profiler, but she’s also in a program with kids who can spot lies a mile away, read emotions, and instantly intuit probabilities. Of course, with great power comes great psychological trauma, so angst ensues in the form of your standard catty girlfights and love triangles.
Still, teens who love TV crime dramas like Criminal Minds will find plenty of crime scenes and serial killer action to satisfy their interests, and Cassie’s funny and likeable enough with plenty of room to grow. Teens who aren’t so crazy about gore, forensics, and the psychology of insane killers might still want to tag along and watch Cassie vacillate between sexy yet hot-and-cold Dean and cute n’ chatty but somewhat catty Michael. The resolution of the mystery felt somewhat left-field to me, but this isn’t meant to be a great cerebral experience. Check your disbelief at the door and you’ll probably enjoy the ride.
Recommend to: Teens who are into CSI, Criminal Minds, Bones, etc
To Buy or Not to Buy: Most public library collections will want to grab a copy.