Review: The Naturals (Jennifer Lynn Barnes)

The Deets:
Audience: YA or MG
Pages: 308
Publisher: November 5th 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423168232
Genre: mystery, contemporary, thriller
Source: library copy



The Naturals (The Naturals, #1)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.




This book was way beyond my normal reading zone, and I am SO glad I read it. Seriously. It was creep-tastic

It will be hard for me to review The Naturals without giving away the goods, but I'm going to do my best to tell you what I loved the most about it. In one word: surprises

Yep, it actually surprised me. I think that's a very big deal because I usually figure out the plot of books in the first 75 pages or so. With that said, I did know where The Naturals was headed but it still ended up being a surprise. I was in the ball park, but my glove was not on. Obviously the big reveal at the end left me saying "holy crap" but it wasn't the only surprise along the way. There were several little twists that made me stop and think for a second before continuing the story. 

I absolutely loved being inside of Cassie's head. The whole concept of being a profiler working for the FBI (but being like the alpha-profiler) was very interesting and fresh for me. Maybe there are books like that out there, but I don't know about them. 

My only complaint was the weird "You" chapters throughout. They were kind of weird for me. I understand the purpose behind them, but they still felt off. It just gave me the impression that they (the chapters) were trying to hard to fit in. Maybe that was just me. They did help move the plot along and give insight into what was happening on the serial killer's end of things without making the story too long. 

In a nutshell, I'm glad this one made it to the Teen Read's 2014 list. It's pretty suspenseful. In fact, it kept this girl from wanting to go out to eat because I wanted to finish the book in one sitting... and to keep me from food AND my favorite restaurant is pretty huge. 

If you are looking for a true page-turner, pick this up. Pronto. 


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review: Thin Space (Jody Casella)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781582703923
Publisher: September 10th 2013 by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse
Genre: mystery, contemporary
Source: library book


Thin SpaceEver since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead. 



Thin Space has been selected as a Teen Reads pick for 2014. Because of that, I placed it on my YA book club's reading list for next year so we can compete in Battle of the Books next spring. Like any good contest mediator, I want to make sure the questions the kids select for the story are accurate so I decided to read Thin Space.  I didn't have a lot of expectations going into the book because it's not something I would typically read for myself, but I was pleasantly surprised.


I felt like it was an accurate glimpse into the life of a grieving family. Marsh's family is certainly grieving, and it's so apparent in the ways they interact with one another. Faced with a horrible tragedy of losing a child, I'm not sure how I would cope, but I would imagine I would find myself having the same struggles as Marsh's family. And if I felt solely responsible for my twin's death, I'd probably act like Marsh: a bit crazy, a bit despondent.

Marsh was an interesting character. It's obvious he has guilt over what happened with his twin brother. If you read carefully enough, you'll find some interesting clues to that story (or you might think they were editing mistakes like I did at first glance).  I am not sure when I figured out the ending, but it was not a surprise when I got there. Even so, Thin Space was still an intense read that really made me ask questions about what I read well after the fact. I remember closing this book and going "wow". That's always a good sign in my book.

If you're looking for deep character growth and connections, you probably won't find it with Thin Space. What you do get, however, is one heck of a mystery with a knock-your-socks-off ending.


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Review: Doll Bones (Holly Black)

The Deets:
Audience: Middle Grades
Pages: 247
ISBN: 9781416963981
Publisher: May 7th 2013 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: mystery, paranormal, ghost, coming of age
Source: library book

Doll Bones Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity...

Doll Bones was listed as a Sunshine State Reader (for Florida) for 2014. I decided to read it to prepare for the upcoming year's book club. I will be honest, I was not crazy about the idea of reading the book because I the 80s movie "Chuckie" has ruined me. So of course the creepy cover was not a plus for me. Thankfully, though, the story wasn't really about the doll or the ghost.

Doll Bones was not as scary as I thought it would be (thank goodness). If I had to classify it into one category, I think I would say it was more of a coming of age story than a ghost story. The creepy ghost living inside the doll was ghost was secondary.

The one thing that really set Doll Bones apart from other middle grades books that I have read was the believable emotions between characters. Holly Black did a great job showing the budding complexities of preteens. Zach, Poppy, and Alice have differing home situations, and each child has a reason for continuing the quest set before them. They are each at a very delicate time in their lives, where many things are changing and they don't know how to deal with those changes. This book has a great message about growing up and friendship. Any reader will be able to find something to relate to, regardless of gender.

It is also has a quick pace to keep a younger readers' attention. Without a steady supply of mystery and action, a younger reader might get lost before finishing nearly 250 pages. I felt like the various plots merged well together and kept the pacing on track. The ghost story helped fuel the quest and kept the characters engaged, which in turn kept me as a reader turning the pages.

Overall, Doll Bones is best suited for readers ages 10-12 (maybe I bit younger if they can handle the length of the book).

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