by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
To be published on November 5, 2013
Source: requested e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley
Summary from author's website: 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 close. 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've seen all this before, and yet The Naturals still made it seem fun and enjoyable. I do love a good Scooby Gang, and this one was interesting. Michael channels Hale from the Heist Society, albeit with an anger management problem. Lia is a compulsive liar and kleptomaniac who can also spot others' lies. Sloane is the requisite nerd. And then there's Dean, the broody one. I won't tell you his secret (which is also one I've seen before) but it's a good one and he plays it well. Cassie is an appealing protagonist, not a TSLT heroine in distress. There is a bit of a love-triangle-y vibe, but on my scale of love triangle awfulness, this one ranks pretty low.
The five teens are living in a house together (think The Real World meets the Mentalist) and only given cold cases to solve by their FBI supervisors. But these supervisors are also handling active cases, so while they're off solving crimes, the kids begin to work on a real case, exposing themselves to danger.
If you've read a lot of crime fiction, much of the book will be familiar to you, terminology like unsubs and signatures and M.O.'s and the whole hunter-becomes-the-hunted trope. I think the key to using tropes is to pick the good ones and mix them well, and The Naturals does that. The book also does a great job of bringing creepy serial killer suspense to the YA crowd without either dumbing it down or using gratuitous gore. As the ending unfolded, I was impressed. I did not see it coming, and it actually made sense. (Often the two are mutually exclusive.)
It seems as though this book has "series potential" and I hope that is the case, because I'd be happy to read more!