Happy Thursday, Reading Nook readers!
Today, I'm reviewing Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It's the second book in her Naturals series, and I've been waiting to see where she would take the series.
The book wasn't necessarily my thing, but I think that a lot of readers will like this book, and I'm hoping my review will help point them in the right direction.
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Format read: ARC via publisher
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.
Barnes brings us back into the the fold of the Naturals gang immediately after the events of the last book, with Cassie and the team still working to recover from the betrayals and reveals that were made in the first book, including issues between Cassie, Michael and Dean.
However, the reprieve is short-lived, when a brutal killing with a familiar MO hits a local university and a new tough FBI Agent moves into the house with a background and a connection to several of the Naturals team. Cassie soon finds herself getting entangled in a web of mind games, and on the hunt to fund a vicious killer.
Barnes's return to the world of the Naturals is an effortless one, as she sweeps readers back into Cassie's life. We immediately see from the first page how the events of the first book have continued to haunt her, and have also permanently altered her relationships with the rest of the Naturals team.
As the killer strikes again and again, and Cassie and the team work feverishly to unravel the clues behind the murders, Barnes brings up a number of intriguing questions on just whether we are defined by blood or by our actions, and whether or not emotional attachments can ever be considered a strength.
Barnes pairs these questions with a plot line that keeps amping up the tension and the scope of the murders, while also unveiling some interesting facts about all of the Naturals crew which allows us to get to know them better. Readers will undoubtedly come away feeling like they've gotten both an exciting thriller/mystery, while also feel like they've gotten to know all of the key characters a lot better.
However, where the book fails for me, is in two parts. First, the ongoing love triangle between Cassie, Michael and Dean. While having wavering feelings for boys is perfectly natural at Cassie's age, it just felt a little out of place during an extended manhunt for a copycat killer.
More than than, I was a little disappointed that a lot of Cassie's interactions with other secondary characters - e.g. Lia - seemed to revolve around Cassie's feelings for Michael and Dean to some extent. It took away from what I felt could be character/relationship development time, and made it less interesting for me to read.
Second, I just thought the plot was just a little too formulaic. I think I may have read/seen too many thriller stories, but I felt like I could predict most of the twists and turns, including the ending. However, this is totally just my opinion, and I would be interested in hearing what you guys think!
However, I also think that I'm just not the right audience for this series. I think that readers who do enjoy great murder mysteries and books about teens who do embrace their special abilities will enjoy this book, and the Natural series on a whole. Barnes can definitely write creepy thrillers, and she proves that to great effect here.
I recommend this book for fans of Meg Cabot's Mediator series, and for fans of CSI and Criminal Minds. This book is the book for you.
About the author:
Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written several acclaimed young adult novels. She has advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science. She received her PhD from Yale University this year and is now a professor in psychology. You can find her online at www.jenniferlynnbarnes.com or follow her on Twitter @jenlynnbarnes.