REVIEW: With third book, “The Naturals” reaches potential for great series

REVIEW: With third book, The Naturals reaches potential for great series

by Emily Reed, Reporter

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of the Black-Eyed Susan nominees for 2015. This book is also the first in the series, with a highly anticipated third book entitled  All In, coming out November 3rd, 2015.

What initially attracted me to this book was the intriguing cover displaying a black box wrapped in caution tape. Without knowing anything about The Naturals, I automatically assumed that the book would be an interesting murder mystery.

It turns out that my prediction is not far from the truth. While there is a murder mystery in The Naturals, that is not the book’s main focus. Instead, the book centers around a group of five gifted 17-year-olds who are a part of a secret program run by the FBI. This program, appropriately titled The Naturals, is designed to develop the teenagers’ individual skills and cultivate their ability to work together as a team.

Since they are not legal adults and therefore not authorized to work on active cases, The Naturals find it extremely frustrating that they are forced to solve low-risk cold cases. They view cold cases as pointless in comparison to dangerous active cases.

This extraordinary group is made up of a human lie detector, two criminal profilers, one statistician, and a guy who can read emotions. As a team, potentially they can become a very valuable asset to the FBI. However, their personalities are not as intriguing as their skills.

By far the most irritating character is Lia. Because she is a human lie detector, Lia has been trained to be blunt. This training has, unfortunately, bled into her social life and, as a result, she has very little concern for others’ feelings.

In one situation she said, “I hope I’m not interrupting. Actually, that’s not true. Whatever’s going on here, I am absolutely delighted to interrupt it.”

Unlike Dean, Lia has no problem wearing her unfiltered thoughts on her sleeve. Dean is the exact opposite. He hides his feelings, yet he is definitely the most tolerant character. While I cannot relate to Dean’s tragic backstory, I can imagine that I would deal with the severity of the program in the same way.

All of the other Naturals seem to think that solving cold cases is a game. They aren’t quite able to comprehend the real gravity of the situation as well as the more perceptive Dean can.

Dean commented about the program to fellow profiler Cassie, “Playing games in parking lots. That’s not what this is. This place will ruin you. The language of killers is not a language you want to learn.”

In this quote, Dean is talking to the narrator of the story, Cassie. What is immensely annoying about this book is that Cassie is easily the most uninteresting person on the team. Compared to Dean, Cassie’s skills as a criminal profiler are not nearly as well developed. She’s an extremely naïve girl who needs to toughen up emotionally before she starts to work on active cases.

Cassie’s roommate, Sloane, is much more entertaining, considering that she is a hyper statistician. Her quirky dialogue and fascinating tidbits of information are funny and necessary to cheer up the Naturals.

While the Naturals are in the middle of the case, they are denied access to continue working on the case by their superior. Sloane tries to lift the mood of the team by jumping in the middle of a tense conversation to offer a random thought.

Sloane said, “Sixteen percent of American men have blue eyes. But over forty percent of male TV doctors do.”

Noticeably, this entire review has been an introduction to the Naturals team. There hasn’t been any information about the murder mystery because in the book, the mystery only consumes the last 10 short chapters. Because of the mystery’s very small presence in The Naturals, it feels forced and unnecessary.

The story would have benefited from the exclusion of the mystery. Since there are five characters, an entire book is necessary to become familiar with their personalities and develop opinions about them.

Although The Naturals has many drawbacks, it shows great potential. In fact, this potential is achieved in the sequel entitled Killer Instincts, which features an intricate murder mystery woven through the pages.

I am looking forward to reading the third installment in this series entitled All In on November 3rd, 2015. If the trend of improvement continues, then All In should be a true award winner.