Killer Instinct, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Before I launch into the body of my review, I'd like to commend my local chain bookstore for not displaying Jennifer Lynn Barnes's Killer Instinct in the children's section. That's where they originally stocked the first book in the series—last year's The Naturals—and it was a staggeringly inappropriate choice.

Like The Naturals, Killer Instinct features a group of kids in a special (and secret) FBI program. Cassie, Dean, Michael, Lia, and Sloane are “Naturals”—each has an innate gift for some aspect of crime-solving, be it profiling, pattern recognition, reading emotions, or lie detection. The Naturals program is supposed to give the group a chance to safely hone their skills by working on cold cases... but when a high-profile serial killer starts murdering college students, some of the program's less-scrupulous handlers are tempted to use the teens in an active investigation, too.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is not a great writer. (At least, not yet.) Her books—and I'm pretty sure I've read all of them—lack the emotional nuance of my beloved Greensleeves; the dazzling inventiveness of Ysabeau Wilce's Flora Segunda series; the sparkling charm of Meg Cabot's best work. That being said, Barnes's writing is perfectly good, she's obviously intelligent, and she has one spectacular gift: no matter how far-fetched her premise (and some of them are pretty damn far-fetched), she makes it feel plausible. Like Madeleine L'Engle, she has an incredible ear for judging just the right blend of fiction and fact to appeal to young adults, and it makes her books a pleasure to read.
Posted by: Julianka


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