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. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. 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.

Oh, this book feels a little bit like home.

(Because YA mystery, serial killers, the FBI, behavioral science and psychopaths are apparently home to me.)

Hear me out. It's not how it sounds. Because I am the sort of weirdo who reads the Acknowledgments section at the end of the book, I now know the author to hold extensive degrees in psychology, in psychotherapy, and to have specialized in behavioral science.

And boy, doesn't that make so much sense.

Because to center a book around a group of teenagers gifted in those exact same fields (and various different parts of it) does not only straddle the line between mystery and paranormal - it also invokes my pesky, persistent Inner Editor. Every good author does research, of course, and we naturally assume that most published books will be extensively researched - but on the subject of psychology, especially forensic psychology, I tend to assume said research will be lacking.

This is 50% due to my being a psych major, and 50% due to a rather ugly skeptical trait. (I'm working on it. Sort of. When I'm not studying or reading. So, during that spare 1% of my time.)

But The Naturals was perfect - perfect in its understanding of psychology, perfect in its application, and perfect in daring to tackle serial killer plots in YA and making it utterly credible.

It's also perfect in terms of the squad goals. This is not a predetermined group of close-knit friends, nor is it the kind that gels effortlessly together once 'united'. No, these are slightly dysfunctional, individually damaged, and collectively synchronous characters - each with their own tics, each with their own set of talents, and each with their own trauma which shapes them.

So, basically...

(Well, not quite. But I am only one book in.)

That I've grown up on Crime, Mystery and Thrillers and never saw the ending coming speaks a lot to Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Or it speaks a lot to my inability to see the dead obvious. But that, ultimately, is the most delicious part of well-written mysteries - and definitively the most delicious part of this particular mystery. The writing, simply speaking, is both amazing and effortless. (Though I'm sure it took a lot of effort. But the best effort in writing is the undetectable kind. So says Nathaniel Hawthorne. Quoting Thomas Hood, to whom it may concern. Research. I'm a fan.)

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to pet my Profiling textbooks, dig up my Psycho soundtrack, and buy the rest of this series.

Talk to me, lovelies! What is your favorite YA Mystery, or have you yet to delve into the genre? And have you read any other Jennifer Lynn Barnes book that you wish to recommend? I may or may not be on a sudden J.L.B. high, which may or may not turn into an outright YA Mystery high. I therefore appreciate any and all recommendations you have to offer. Leave a comment below, or find us on social media, where we plot nefarious plots and celebrate squads and anti-heroes like they're going out of style.