- The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Spending her childhood with a con-woman mother has left Cassie with a knack for reading people, and she’s often able to predict their next actions with almost preternatural accuracy. Five years after the brutal and unsolved murder of Cassie’s mom, the FBI comes knocking on Cassie’s door, offering her the opportunity to join the Naturals, a group of gifted teenagers who work to solve cold cases. Her mother’s case is off limits, officially, but when a string of murders occurs, echoing the pattern of her mother’s death, Cassie and her newfound pals (including a pair of hot guys) find their way around the rules to investigate on their own. From the creepy, titillating details of the murders (lipstick souvenirs and peeled-off skin are just a few) to the multiple red herrings that effectively lead readers down disturbing blind alleys, this is basically the YA version of a CSI/Criminal Minds/Law and Order episode and, like those shows, it has a sort of compulsive appeal that will spur readers on, even if the characterization and actual logic of the plot are limited. Barnes’ heroines (in The Squad, BCCB 3/08, and Every Other Day, BCCB 2/12) are of the sassy, snarky variety and Cassie is no exception, covering much of her grief over her mother’s death and her uncertainty about her own abilities with a thick layer of sarcastic wit and prickly attitude. The absence of supernatural goings-on will draw readers who prefer the no-nonsense of realism, while both the unresolved love triangle between Cassie and two fellow Naturals and the deepening mystery behind Cassie’s mother promise a sequel.