Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: The Naturals

The Naturals (The Naturals, #1)Title: The Naturals
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals
Volume: 1
Genre: Mystery

A Quick Introduction: Cassie can read people. Just by looking at them, she can decipher who a person is and what it is that they want. It hasn't been of much use to her until the FBI approach her with an offer. They want her to join a classified program where gifted teenagers work to crack cold cases. Of course, a bunch of teenagers living in a house will have it's complications, even if one wasn't expert at reading emotions and another wasn't an excellent liar and lie-detector. And two profilers. Cassie has her own reasons for joining: her mother disappeared when she was a child. And not in an up-and-left way. In a there-was-blood-all-over-the-dressing-room way. Her mother is a cold case- after so long, she's presumed dead, but that doesn't mean Cassie doesn't want to find who did it- and prevent anyone else from losing someone the way she did. Shortly after she arrives, a new killer strikes, and suddenly things are terrifyingly close to home. There's more on the line than cold cases.

Review at a Glance: This mystery would benefit from focus on plot and characters.

Review: I think a part of the issue for me was that I wasn't incredibly interested in the concept, though I did think it had potential. I actually do enjoy mysteries and detective stories, but for some reason, I wasn't crazy about this one. The program that Cassie was involved in didn't seem realistic. By which I mean that the way they were treated and trained does not seem in any way how forensic investigators would be instructed. I wish there had been more build up to the reveal of who was behind the killings, rather than there being no real suspects for most of the book, and suddenly action.

Part of the problem for we was that I overall didn't like the characters very much. I found them kind of dull and one dimensional. Cassie didn't seem to have much emotional depth. I didn't really feel for her most of the time. Really, the only time I felt anything for her was when she had the flashback(s) to discovering her mother's dressing room. She seems to have PTSD to a degree as a result of this. This is not really treated with any degree of seriousness in the book, though her feelings concerning this are the only parts of the book that I actually felt anything for her. Besides that, I found her to be a pretty one dimensional character. A tragic back story does not a multi-dimensional character make. I found the supporting characters annoying on the whole. None of them went through much in the way of a development arc that I could see. There was a completely unnecessary love triangle, and the story would have benefited from the loss of it, and more of a focus on characters and character development. Love triangles are an overused trope, and rarely are they executed successfully.

I didn't really find the writing style engaging. It didn't stand out to me one way of the other. This book is told in first-person from Cassie's point of view for the most part, so my frustrations with her as a protagonist didn't help my reading experience. Every few chapters, a view from the killer's point of view is given. It is told in second person (the profilers use "You" when trying to profile a killer, to get in their heads, and the reader sees into the killer's head the same way here). This was a strength. It is an unsettling way for the killer's point of view to be presented.

In conclusion, I don't think that I will be continuing with the series, it just wasn't for me. I found most of the characters uninteresting at best and annoying at worst and I really didn't enjoy the love triangle. The plot and how the program was run didn't ring true for me at all, and I was unable to lose myself in the story at all. In the end, it wasn't for me.

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