Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Saturday, May 24, 2014

Plot Summary:
It's been five year's since Cassie's mother disappeared and no no leads have brought her hope. Cassie and her mother were always on the go because her mother was a self-proclaimed psychic, but, in reality, she taught Cassie everything she needed to know about profiling so reading people is like a sixth sense. One day, while on the road, Cassie returned to her mother's dressing room only to find blood everywhere and her mother had vanished.  It's been five years since that day and Cassie's mother's body has yet to be found and Cassie is still unable to fit in with her father's family except for Nonna. Cassie and her father don't have the same relationship that most girls have with their fathers (her father is in the military and has rarely been around). However, after her mothers disappearance, Cassie is whisked away to her grandmother's home and the family has taken her in so she rarely has to go without. However, something inside Cassie is missing and she misses her mother so Cassie closes herself off to everyone and then Michael walked into her world with a business card that will change her life forever. Michael, like Lia and Dean, is part of an FBI experiment where teens with exceptional abilities (i.e., teens who can read emotions, decipher if a person is lying, a statistician, and the ability to read people) are trained, and evaluated, to use their skills to assist agents with cold cases. Although Cassie thinks she might be able to investigate her mother's case, her handler (Agent Briggs) assures her that there is no new evidence and that her "gift" should be used to help others. Along with Cassie's story, there are sections entitled "You," which contain thoughts and evaluations about different crime scenes that tell a very chilling tale of things to come? Cassie and company may be "Naturals," but do they have the what it takes to track down and capture a real killer before someone gets hurt?

Critical Evaluation:
WOW! This book is amazing! It really is Criminal Minds for teens and I loved it! There is so much that can be discussed here (especially when it comes to the criminology and such), but I want to focus on the story and the characters. It is very obvious that the author has done her research because all of the characters display a variety of talents that are very useful in deducing crimes that require more than the average detective work; these characters are analyzing and solving crimes by some of the most notorious, and evil, people who have committed some exceptionally heinous crimes. Despite the gory details, it's refreshing to see these young people overcome and struggle with the work at hand. As a reader, I think it's important to see that even the most brilliant FBI agent is still human who knows what it's like to feel anger, sadness, and/or vulnerability. Cassie, for example, is not the average teenager who came from a good family. In fact, we find out some disturbing things about her mother's family that shed light on why Cassie was always guarding herself because never knew nothing about her mother's family (or her father) since he barely had the opportunity to be the parent he probably wanted to be. Nevertheless, Cassie has always depended on herself and it troubles her to accept help from Nonna, her aunts, and her uncles. Houghton they may be pushy, Cassie does have people who love her, which is something Michael is always lacking; hence, not allowing Cassie to profile him. For Dean, knowing his father's history, he is constantly struggling with himself because  he fears he will become him. As for Lia, she is a mystery all together because she comes of cool and confident, but there is a side of that refuses to let anyone in.  As for Sloane, she is the type of girl who clearly doesn't have the social skills of most teenage girls. When hyped on caffeine, she turns into a human super computer, which is helpful when necessary. When she isn't crunching numbers, she is kind of a loaner who struggles with relating to others, but, the Naturals project has given her the opportunity to become part of a team, which is a kind of family unit, giving her people to talk to and rely on (the same can be said for Cassie). All of these teens have amazing gifts, but they have paid a serious price for it, which is incredibly unfair because being a teenager is already difficult and they didn't ask for these gifts either. However, these teens managed to keep it together because they realized that they work better as one than against each other. A gripping read and I am definitely sensing a sequel!

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
Jennifer Lynn Barnes (who mostly goes by Jen) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has been, in turn, a competitive cheerleader, a volleyball player, a dancer, a debutante, a primate cognition researcher, a teen model, a comic book geek, and a lemur aficionado. She's been writing for as long as she can remember, finished her first full book (which she now refers to as a "practice book" and which none of you will ever see) when she was still in high school, and then wrote Golden the summer after her freshman year in college, when she was nineteen.
Jen graduated high school in 2002, and from Yale University with a degree in cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought) in May of 2006. She was awarded a Fulbright to do post-graduate work at Cambridge, and then returned to the states, where she is hard at work on her PhD.

Teen Mystery, Teen Suspense, Teen Horror

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to The Naturals:

Awards & Recognition:

'A page-turning thrill ride that will keep you guessing right until the very end' Ally Carter, author of the bestselling Gallagher Girls series

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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