The Naturals

Book review by
Julie A. Carlson, Common Sense Media
The Naturals Book Poster Image
Teens vs. serial killer in implausible, confusing thriller.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Naturals is set in Quantico, Virg., where the FBI is located. The teens are recruited to work for a fictional program called "Naturals." They use their natural abilities to detect and ferret out the truth to solve murders. But never once do Cassie and the others step foot in the FBI Academy at Quantico. One of the techniques they learn is profiling people at the mall. The Naturals wants to show how the FBI works in catching killers via psychological and behavioral profiling, setting up crime scenes and other techniques, but it doesn't even come close. The book would have done better to show how specialized the field of criminal profiling is, and that the FBI recruits highly educated and well-trained people for this particular job. Profilers spend years training, have heavy backgrounds in psychology and law enforcement, and have talked one-on-one with murderers. The Naturals doesn't explain that.

Positive Messages

Positive messages about friendship, love, and the importance of family. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cassie works at a diner and lives with her grandmother, but details on this are sparse. She has the ability to detect people's personal backgrounds and habits from the way they dress and act -- but that's pretty much all readers know about Cassie besides the fact that she's still grieving for her murdered mother. She's nice and seems smart, whereas most of the teens in the novel are self-involved, self-loathing, and egotistical. 

Violence

The Naturals presents a serial killer's point of view. The killer is creepy and talks about killing and torture. Characters are stabbed, shot, seriously hurt, and killed. Violence toward victims and serial-killer behavior are discussed and taught in the the "Naturals" program.

Sex

Mild flirting, and one kiss.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that THE NATURALS is the first book in a mystery/thriller series pitched by author Jennifer Lynn Barnes as The Mentalist-meets-Pretty Little Liars. It's about a girl named Cassie, who's recruited to work with the FBI to solve cold murder cases. Cassie lives with a small group of fellow teens with special, "natural" abilities in Quantico, Virg., where the FBI is located. They're trained in behavioral and psychological techniques, as well as in analyzing crime scenes, to catch serial killers. Scenes of kidnappings, murder, and torture are described. Characters are stabbed, shot, seriously hurt, and killed. There's mild flirting and one shared kiss. No strong language.

User Reviews

Adult Written byEmilyG 4 January 9, 2015

Amazing book!

I loved this book but I wouldn't recommend it to people who cant handle it. I finished the whole thing in two days and I'm keeping it on my bookshelf... Continue reading
Parent Written bykg29 April 18, 2016

Excellent thriller for teens

Very entertaining! Keeps you on your toes. Good suspense for reluctant readers.
Teen, 17 years old Written bychanel55 July 13, 2015

Great Book!!

When I heard this book was similar to the show Criminal Minds, I had to read it. This book kept my interest the entire time, and I had to stay up all night to... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykatie776 November 29, 2014

Very Disturbing and Violently Graphic

This book is very violent, constantly describing very detailed pictures of crime scenes, and very disturbing scenarios. The main characters are sent to a speci... Continue reading

What's the story?

Years ago, Cassie's mother was killed, but her body was never found. This has haunted Cassie through childhood and into her teens, and she misses her mother very much. She lives with her grandmother but feels she doesn't belong. So, when the FBI recruits Cassie because of her \"natural\" ability to gauge people's emotions and background information just from looking at them, she jumps at the chance to change her life. She ends up living in Virginia with a group of other teens who have special abilities (e.g., pathological lying, mathematical deductive reasoning), whom the FBI believes will help solve cold murder cases. While solving a major case, Cassie hopes she also can find the answers to her mother's murder.

Is it any good?

The concept behind THE NATURALS is kind of interesting, but it doesn't work for various reasons. The big one: It's hard to accept the premise that the FBI would hire a bunch of kids (who aren't even attending high school) to solve crimes, especially ones involving serial killers. At one point, Cassie wonders if the FBI even knows the "Naturals" program exists, except for the two agents who recruited her. Readers may suspend disbelief for the sake of pure entertainment, but the novel's all over the place. It's predictable and full of cliches (a love triangle, insta-love, missing parents) and has unlikable characters. 

Barnes seems to have done some research into the mind of a serial killer. However, she doesn't convey how the FBI really works and that being a criminal profiler takes more than just reading books at the library and checking people out at the mall. The Naturals is trying too hard to be a teen version of Silence of the Lambs. Some parts are suspenseful and creepy, but there's a lot of information that pops up out of the blue, leaving readers wondering if they missed something. Also, the ending is extremely confusing -- who killed who, who's bad, and who's good? 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about crime stories in books and on TV. Is it important for them to accurately reflect real police work? Crime dramas on TV, for example, often show crime-scene technicians wearing high heels to a crime scene. How does The Naturals compare with these kinds of TV shows?

  • Cassie has the natural ability to figure out things, including the inner workings of people's minds and their behavior. Why can't Cassie solve her mother's murder if she can figure out other murders?

  • Cassie discovers things about her mother and her family. Why do you think Cassie's mother didn't tell her about her family history and past? Why keep it a secret?

Book details

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