Review: The Naturals and Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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The Naturals and Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre: 
Mystery/ Thriller, Secret Agent
Published by: Quercus Books
Pages: 308 | 376
Format: Library book
Rating: ★★★★★

Both of these books have been sat, unassuming, on our local library’s shelves for a while now, and never before had we picked them up. The last visit we had, it was about time we gave them a chance. They’re blurbed by Ally Carter, after all, and I love a good spy story. From books I picked up on a whim, to the best books I’ve read so far this year, I loved reading them back to back. There’s nothing better than discovering a new favourite book, especially if it’s one you haven’t heard anyone else talk about. So, let’s talk about all the reasons to love The Naturals series, and why it had my heart racing from beginning to end. Fangirl mode: activated!

Kick Ass Female Protagonist

So, this has become a cliche. It’s even more of a cliche if the protagonist has red hair, because somehow that makes her more mysterious, or perceptible to fun and magical things happening to her (take Amy from Across The Universe or Amy from Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour or Amy from Doctor Who, for example. Sidenote: why are all Amy’s redheads??) Cassie does have red hair and, yes, she’s a KAFP, but there’s something different about her. She’ll listen to instructions. She’s desperate to learn. She wants to work as part of a team rather than run around all by herself!

Each of The Naturals have a skills and Cassie’s is profiling. She’s extremely good at getting into other people’s minds and working out why they do thinks, kind of like Sherlock! She’s smart, strong and intuitive: exactly the type of girl I want to be reading about.

The Naturals Program

My favourite thing an author could possibly do is create a school with a curriculum different to my own. It’s why I love The School For Good and Evil so much. In The Naturals, teenagers are taken to live together and learn the ways of the FBI. Physical training, listening to interview recordings, field trips to role-play situations…it was the best. Teenagers learning to do things that are not meant for teenagers, like, who know, solving kidnappings, gave me X Men Evolution vibes, like I was in Xavier’s Institute and having the time of my life.

The Team

It’s made up of three girls and two boys, which is my favourite gender ratio in books. Along with Cassie, there’s Sloane, the statistical analyst, Lia, the human lie-detector, Michael, the emotion reader and Dean, the first profiler. I loved watching their friendship form, and seeing them split up into different groups. They’re all including to different degrees, and I wish I’d seen more of Sloane, who was more of a background character, but still, I felt like I was part of the team with them. Of course, two boys will inevitably lead to…

The Love Triangle

Now before you go and scream at the sky, ‘why do authors keep doing this??’, I need to point out that this is one of the most respectful love triangles I’ve read. Everyone’s feelings matter, and that’s so refreshing to read. I’ll give an example: (to set the scene, this is a kiss moment like Clary, Jace and Simon’s when Simon bursts in on the other two.) “I forced myself not to scramble backward, not to lean away […] I wouldn’t do that to him. The kiss might have started as a distraction […] but I’d kissed him back and I wasn’t going to turn around and make him feel like nothing just because [the other guy] was standing in the doorway and there was something there between him and me too.’ Isn’t that paragraph the most aware thing you’ve ever read?

I was more on Dean’s side of this triangle, and thought that Michael could come across as a little desperate and controlling at some points, but he was still a friend to Cassie which I liked.

THE MYSTERY CRIME SOLVING

There was so much BUILD in both of these books. The mysteries were so layered, there were red-herrings and dead ends. Usually I’m one that can figure out a twist in the tale before the characters, but for theses stories, I let the characters do all the work and got swept up in it all. I never knew where the mystery would take us next and a book of this genre hasn’t surprised me since the fifth Gallagher Girl book!

It moved at such a pace too, it felt like I was watching it unravel on TV because new bits of evidence were always discovered or revelations made at exactly the right moment. I’ve also been really into murder mysteries at the moment, since binge watching iZombie. 

What’s so great about these books, too, is that I want to reread them, despite knowing the outcome. I think I’d still get the thrills I did the first time round and that’s confirming to me how special these books are.

Verdict

How could I give these books anything less than 5 stars each? Both were equally good, and showed real character development between the first and second book. I can’t wait to get my hands on the third, which is not yet available in the UK, but know that as soon as it is, I’ll be reading it. Guaranteed.

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