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I Belong

Review: Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Killer InstinctTitle: Killer Instinct

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: YA Mystery

Series: The Naturals (Book #2)

Publication Date: November 5, 2014

Format: Hardcover, 386 Pages

ISBN-10: 1423168321 (Disney-Hyperion)

ISBN-13: 978-1423168324 (Disney-Hyperion)

Reviewed by: Bridget


Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.

Quick & Dirty: A suspenseful mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat. With a twisty-turny plot, witty characters, and unique idea this is by far one of my favorite YA mystery series!!!

Opening Sentence: The majority of children who are kidnapped and killed are dead within three hours of the abduction.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

The Naturals are a group of extremely talented teenagers the FBI have recruited to work on cold cases. Each one of them has a very unique ability that makes them extremely useful when it comes to solving cases. Cassie Hobbes is a part of the group and she has the ability to profile people by just observing them. She just recently had a terrible run in with a serial killer that was obsessed with Cassie’s mother’s murder, and the whole experience has left Cassie shaken. She can’t believe she didn’t see all the signs pointing to the killer and she starts to wonder if she is really an asset to the team or a burden. Hopefully she can prove herself by solving some of the cold cases the Naturals have been assigned to.

But soon a brutal serial killer strikes and the bodies start to pile up. The FBI needs help and they once again decide to pull the Naturals into an active case because the killer seems to be a perfect copy cat of a very infamous serial killer who happens to be Dean’s father. Dean has tried to forget his father and all the horrible things that happened while living with him, but he soon realizes that you can’t run from your past. With the help of the Naturals, Dean will have to visit his past and try to solve the case before they get caught up in the serial killers very dangerous web!

I loved Cassie in the first book and my fondness for her just continued to grow in this story. She is obviously very intelligent, but I love that she also follows her gut even if the facts are pointing to something different. I did feel that she had a lot more insecurities in this book then the first, but I loved seeing a more vulnerable side to her. Out of all of the members of the Naturals team she is the one that feels the most emotions. Most of them have shut off their emotions, so it is easier to cope with what type of work they are doing, but Cassie isn’t wired to be that way which is a good and a bad thing. It makes it so she can see things from a different perspective and she is determined to solve all their cases. But it also makes her way more attached and in her line of work they aren’t always going to be fast enough to save everyone. Overall, I think that she is a well rounded character that I absolutely adore.

Dean is the other profiler that is part of the Naturals team and he is also one of the love interests. In many ways I felt like this was Dean’s story. You learn so much about his background and why he is the way he is. He is a very broody guy that tends to shut everyone out which can be really frustrating, but as you learn more about him you understand why he does. His relationship with Cassie is very hot and cold, but because they are both natural profilers they understand each other in ways no else can. Cassie brings out the best in Dean, but I’m not a hundred percent sure that he brings out the best in her. I like Dean, but I don’t know if I would personally pick him for Cassie.

Michael is amazing at reading people. From the sound of their voice to their facial expressions he can pretty much tell what people are thinking. He is a very charming guy, but in many ways he is also chameleon. He has so many shades to his personality and it is very rare he ever lets the real him shine through. There are a few moments with Cassie when you get to see the real him, but for the most part he is a mystery. I loved Michael and I think that his relationship with Cassie is adorable. They have amazing chemistry and the amount of patience Michael shows while waiting for her to decide who she wants really made me love him even more. Personally, they clicked for me and I think that out of the two love interests, I would want Cassie to pick Michael.

I have to say just a couple things about the other two members of the Naturals group because they are such a vital part to the story. First there is Lia, who is a human lie detector. She has a very lively personality and she doesn’t get along with Cassie very well. She is very stubborn, but she also cares deeply for the few people in her life she has let in. There is still a lot to learn about her and I really hope more of her story is told in future books. The last member of the group is Sloane. She is the numbers person. You can pretty much give her any kind of puzzle and she will be able to mathematically figure out an answer, which makes her extremely valuable to the team. But it has also made her really awkward in any kind of social situation. She is brutally honest and totally weird at times, but she is probably my favorite character. I love how she tries to lighten the mood by sprouting off useless statistics and how she is always doing crazy experiments to pass the time.

All I can say about this series is WOW!!! The first book was amazing and this one was just as good. I will admit that I was able to figure out the plot a little bit easier in this book then the first but there were still a few things that took me by complete surprise. I am always looking for a good mystery that doesn’t have your run of the mill plot and this one didn’t at all. It is slower paced, but the suspense is running so high the whole time you don’t really notice. I also love that Barnes really pays attention to the little details in the cases the kids are trying to solve; it makes everything feel so real and creepier. I adored all the characters in the story, especially the other naturals. They each are so unique and I would honestly love to learn more about each of them. The only thing that I wish the book had was a little bit more romance. There is some, but I felt that the love triangle was much more predominant then I personally would have liked. I’m not sure if there are going to be any more books in the series, but I certainly hope so because there is still so much I want to know about the world and characters. If you have not read this series, I urge you to, especially if you are a fan of YA mysteries!!!

Notable Scene:

“I’ve been better.” Dean could have stopped there, but he didn’t. Each syllable was hard-won, and my gut twisted as I realized just how much it was costing him to form these words. “The professor they’re looking for, the one who teaches the Monsters or Men class? I’d bet a lot of money that the reason he’s a person of interest is that one of the killers he lectures about in his class is my father.” Dean swallowed and stared holes into the carpet. “The reason Briggs and Sterling were called in is that they were the original agents on my father’s case.”

I remembered what it had felt like to walk through a crime scene, knowing it had been patterned after my mother’s murder. Dean had been there with me. He’d been there for me.

“Bind them. Brand them. Cut them. Hang them,” I said softly. “That was how your father killed his victims.” I didn’t phrase it as a question, because I knew. Just by looking at Dean, I knew.

“Yes,” Dean said, before lifting his eyes to look at the still muted TV. “And I’m almost certain that’s what was done to this girl.

The Naturals Series:

1. The Naturals

2. Killer Instinct


FTC Advisory:  Disney-Hyperion provided me with a copy of Killer Instinct.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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