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.
Some people compare this series to Criminal Minds (my all time favorite by the the way) and so I came into this story with sort of high expectations.
I think being a die hard super fan of Criminal Minds is what hindered my enjoyment of this book. The author was trying too hard to be like Criminal Minds but by replacing adults with teenagers with a dash of cliche recycled ideas.
I thought this was going to be about a group of teenagers who have prodigious psychological abilities and they were going to be a team that works together to solve complicated cases that the average FBI agent couldn’t crack themselves.
Instead, I got a character who thinks she’s above all who can’t decide between which boy she likes, side characters who were more interesting but served no relevance and the annoying “you’re too young to do anything so stay here while the adults handle things” trope.
The characters have brilliant capabilities but humdrum personalities. We have our main protagonist, Cassie, who is a natural at profiling people and whose mother happens to be missing. But that’s all we got. There’s no personality, no complexity, not an ounce of uniqueness in her. Yet, everyone in the story was obsessed, jealous or in love with her. She’s a special snowflake and I just don’t get it. She keeps justifying being a part of a case, her ideas, her need to be in everyone’s business because she’s a natural/profiler. I GET IT, YOU THINK YOUR’E SPECIAL AND EVERYONE ELSE IS NOT. Though in her defense, ALL the characters were this egotistical. Being in her head was dreadful, the only thing I enjoyed was her profiling. I wished this was a multiple POV story but unfortunately we have to see things through her dreadfully dull eyes (also, it’s “her” story so it wouldn’t make sense to have multiple povs)
Then there’s Dean. A fellow special snowflake but instead, he’s the mysterious love interest with a dark past who also tries to avoid Cassie because he’s afraid what he will think of her. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, every YA love interest out there.
“I-don’t want to talk to you,” he said, “you’re better off with Michael.”
*rolls eyes to the moon*
Speaking of Michael, he is the other love interest. Yes, a love triangle, a way for Barnes to amplify Cassie’s character by having other characters fall head over heels for her. To me, Michael shows no purpose in the story, other than following Cassie around like a lost puppy. Barnes tried to create purpose at the end, but I didn’t buy it. He’s supposed to be a natural at reading emotions, yet, although a cool talent, I didn’t care because he only used his talent to show off to Cassie. I wanted him to be more relevant in the plot.
Another natural, Sloane was also a big disappointment because it was apparent she was trying to be the adorable sweet cinnamon roll that is Reid. Unfortunately, she was trying to be too much like Reid. She would spurt out facts that served no purpose. Reid was a multiplex character who also happens to be intelligently gifted with a eidetic memory. Sloane just seemed like a walking computer with sticky fingers.
Then there’s Lia who, like Michael, didn’t serve much purpose either. She’s a natural born liar who can also easily detect when someone is lying. I didn’t care for her much because she also had no relevance to the story and therefore, can’t develop a good opinion of her. The only thing we know as the reader is that she loves Michael (on and off relationship with him but since Cassie came, he should have let her down easy instead of keep her to the side for just in case Cassie picks Dean UGH), is apparently flexible, wears little clothes. Ah yes, and the author states these characteristics as so we have a negative perception of her.
(IRRELEVANT TO MY RATING) What I don’t understand about the story is why they won’t let the teens help in active cases. I know Michael said that they “just want to be them” and they are used for cold cases, but the team never worked on cold cases in the entire story. They all were kind of just there. I mean, Cassie looked at some of the cases but never made an actual profile or anything. The program is basically USELESS. I hate to mention criminal minds again because this story is not Criminal Minds but I feel like they would want the input of natural born youth. Reid was the youngest member of the FBI team and they welcomed the kid (22 years old I believe).
I don’t know, I think it’s the unnecessarily teen drama that bugged me the most. The love triangle with Dean and Michael was too familiar with other YA stories (DerekxChloexSimon from the Darkest Powers trio, JacexClaryxSimon from the Mortal Instruments series, BenxCameliaxAdam from the Touch Series) I won’t even mention the series that rhymes with liefight. I don’t think this love triangle was needed or even wanted. I wish it never existed and I love love triangles 😦
Despite the characters, I was still engaged throughout the story. My favorite part of Criminal Minds was the profiling and thinking processes and there was a whole lot of that in the story. I wished Lia and Michael played more of a role besides orbiting planet Cassie and actually put their abilities to use. I assume in later books they will and if not,
might as well kill off these characters. I also hope Sloane becomes better because blabbing about percentage of people who eat a certain food and different forms of hugs is not making her character more compelling.
Cassie and Dean are lost causes because apparently they are above everyone else. Perhaps this was a profile story and everyone else will have their own in future books. I don’t know if I will continue the series because I don’t think I could stand reading in Cassie’s perspective any longer.