Tag Archives: Barnes

The Naturals (series)


This two book series from Jennifer Lynn Barnes left me wanting a three book series. More, please. More murder and serial killers and plot-twists and FBI agents and sociopaths and suspense and teenage crime-solving phenoms. Please. And throw in just a little bit of romance for those who need it in their YA fiction.

17 year old Cassie has always been different.  Raised by her “psychic” mother until she was 12,  she has the natural ability to read and profile people, something that was helpful to her mother’s career.  After her mother is murdered, Cassie is sent to live with her extended Italian family, where she feels like she never quite fits. And then the FBI comes calling.

Cassie is recruited to become a Natural – one of a team of five teens all with preternatural abilities to profile, detect lies, read emotion or recall and decipher detail.  They consult on FBI cold cases, looking for clues that the agents may have missed. They see things others don’t, and in the process save lives and find killers. And then an open case hits close to home for Cassie. Her involvement puts her team at risk.

So.  Five teenagers – Cassie, Lia, Sloane, Michael and Dean – all with unusal abilities, dark pasts and conflicting personalities, living together in one house. Drama? What drama? I loved it. Teen angst and joy and selfishness and moodiness and disregard for rules times five. Barnes writes good teens, and develops her characters believably;  I was equal parts intrigued and irritated with them at all times.

I don’t usually like a love triangle, they are kind of overdone, yes?  But in this case, I could tolerate it.  So many times, the third person is just thrown in for the sake of it. This time, it worked. Who was the third?

The plot and the pacing are excellent; the action moves well. The FBI profiling was incredibly interesting (I’ve always been fascinated by it), and the Agents that dealt with the teens all had distinct personalities and worked well in the story. The plot twists were unexpected, the finale fantastic!

Barnes did not answer everything neatly in the first novel. It worked. There were still questions for the second book to address. How did the Naturals become what they are? Why are they special, and where do they come from? Which people or events from their pasts are creeping into and affecting the present?

Totally appropriate for all teens and the budding FBI agent. Easy to read, not overly gory, but just enough detail to intrigue. A fun page-turner that will keep you guessing.

The Naturals is published by Disney-Hyperion.

The Fixer


YA political thriller? Sign. Me. Up. Here is a book that will throw your head for a loop and shake your brain. EVERYTHING in this novel is a plot twist.  Nothing is as it seems. I loved it. I don’t care if it was realistic or not, this story sucked me right in. It is great.

Tess Kendrick has spent most of her 16 years on her grandfather’s ranch, after the death of her parents when she was young. But her grandfather has early onset Alzheimers, and Tess can’t care for him much longer.  Her estranged sister, Ivy, uproots her to D.C., and Tess enters a new world where power determines status.

She transfers into Hardwicke Academy, the exclusive private school for children of the Washington elite, where politics and power also rule. She bonds immediately with her tour guide, Vivvie, never guessing that this casual friendship it will lead into conspiracy and intrigue of her own.

There is the mysterious death of a Supreme Court Justice, backroom negotiations, political arm-twisting, mysterious pasts and relationships, as well as a bit of life-and-death bargaining thrown in, just in case you get bored. (You won’t.)

The characters are fantastic.  Tess is a straightforward, sarcastic, self-assured teen who takes crap from no one. She learns quickly that nothing is for free, and it is all about what she has to offer in return. Her entourage of Vivvie, Emilia, Asher and Henry are all distinct voices on their own, with believable personalities and influences on the action.

The adults, who I often think don’t get a fair shake in YA lit, are distinctive as well, with their own backstories and intrigues that play well with the teens’ storyline. Sister Ivy and her cohorts Adam, Bodie, and the host Washington power brokers she mingles amongst are all well defined.

The plot was totally the kind of conspiracy and intrigue that you imagine goes on behind the scenes in politics – whether it be in Washington, Ottawa, London or anywhere else. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. You get rid of my enemy, I’ll funnel cash or contracts or position your way. Ruthlessness and power. It’s awesome.

And at the end, a cliff-hanger.

Author Jennifer Lynn Barnes is no stranger to YA fiction, but this is a new direction for her, and one I hope she continues on. Hint: a sequel, please?

This book is great for any teen, and any adult who wants an evening of sitting on the edge of your seat, holding your breath and tearing through the pages.  It is not relaxing.

The Fixer is published by Bloomsbury.