Wednesday 6 May 2015

Book Review - Killer Instinct

The Naturals
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals #2
Genres: Mystery, Contemporary | Young Adult
Release Date: 6th November 2014
Publishers: Quercus
No. Pages: 352
Source: Gifted
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?
The following review may contain spoilers concerning earlier books in the series.
If you have not read the previous installments, please proceed with caution.

You know what makes reading books that don't quite hit the spot bearable? What makes those unimpressive, slightly uninteresting, or pleasant books worth reading through? There's a feeling that comes with anything you realise is perfect for you; the perfect clothes, the perfect shoes, the perfect bed, the perfect film, the perfect day out, there's something about the entire scenario that just feels complete, that just feels, beautiful and calming, like a trustworthy friend, like a blanket that's so comfortable, so snuggly, so warm and wonderful, there's nothing more made for you. That feeling, that is the feeling I have towards The Naturals, and each of it's instalments, Killer Instinct included.

Killer Instinct continued a matter of months from where The Naturals left off and to say I found it easy to fall back into step with these characters is an understatement - I was hook, line and sinker from the first sentence, and the few weeks it'd taken for me to start this sequel felt as though they hadn't existed at all. Barnes's clear, crisp voice of Cassie, and her fabulous writing talent was still just as enticing and wonderful as I remembered it to, and her characters and their tight-nit group were still just as brilliant as they were in The Naturals, and before this instalments mystery and murders had even taken place, I was sold. I think of myself as unnaturally in love with this series, and there's so, so much about it that I love, it's almost impossible for me not to fangirl, just a teeny bit. The mystery and the fantastic use of plot devices that I've seen and loved before, the return of the second person POV of the murderer was just fantastic (although not used anywhere near enough) and - guys, this book, I can't handle it's perfection.

One of my favourite features in The Naturals was, as I've briefly mentioned, the friendships and relationships throughout the group of Naturals, and Killer Instinct took this feature, this feature that I loved with characters I adored, and took it to the next level. Characters that were involved, yet were much more secondary were developed hugely throughout this novel, the more adult characters and their relationships were explored, daughter/father relationships strained throughout work commitments, emotional detachment due to trauma, working relationships, tangled and twisted connections due to past encounters, it was all fabulous. Where-as The Naturals felt very Cassie centred, both in character and mystery, Killer Instinct focused a lot more on Lia, Sloane, Dean and Michael, some of the most troubled characters in this series, and I love that Barnes took the time and effort to do this. Lia's character went through an awful lot of development and change in this novel - her relationship with Cassie was altered both through her feelings for other characters, such as her protective, brother/sister relationship with Dean and her flirty, troublesome relationship with Michael, but also because of her past and her own personal demons, it was lovely to read. Sloane's development and exploration too was delved into much more in this instalment, her lack of understanding people and emotions and always falling back on her facts and figures and a talent she understands, and while her development was wonderful too, I would have prefered to see just a smidgen more. I appreciate that Barnes focuses a lot on imperfect female characters in this series with Cassie, Lia and Sloane, and works to develop their relationships, trust and loyalty with one another, as well as others, it shows her style, her dedication and her love for those characters.

Michael's character was also fleshed about much more in this instalment, with more information about his backstory coming to light, more about his temper and his emotions and more about how he became how he is, and how he feels shaped by his parents, much like Dean; in fact, these two characters have a lot more in common than originally thought in The Naturals - home lives that could have destroyed them, but changed them, a feeling of detachment from people, either through emotional distance or sarcasm and wit, and general attitudes towards life. They're definitely interesting characters, and they do/did make for a very interesting love triangle, one that I was still, surprisingly, very for throughout Killer Instinct, although, I am very much hoping that that isn't the end of that feature (and not because I'm unsatisfied with the result, but because it only helped to improve, develop and explore the Cassie, Dean and Michael an awful lot.)

"Maybe, to do what you and I do, we have to have a little bit of the monster in us."

Dean's character development is such a fundamental part of the plot and mystery in this novel too, exploring his rocky relationship with his father, his past, his own hauntings and his inner monster, it all worked to help explain why Dean feels how he feels, why he's such an angry character, why he puts distance between himself and others and avoids emotional attachment, and fundamentally, explores why when Cassie profiles via 'you', Dean profiles via 'I', which was quite possibly one of the most emotional parts of Killer Instinct for me. His relationship with his Father, and his Father's twisted and manipulative reach with other people just made this book. The twists that Barnes used, the direction changes, the affects the mystery had on all the characters, and after affects for Cassie from The Naturals murder mystery plot, how the two intertwined, how past events were brought up from characters we got to explore and delve into more, honestly, this book's balance was completely perfect; there was never too much or not enough of something, just always enough to blow my mind.

I wish I could put my feelings into more tangible words, but it's so hard to take wanting to just hold this book and feel it's perfect pages in my hands and turn those into concise words. It's almost impossible to try and explain how brilliant the mystery in this novel was (even if I was a tiny bit disappointed by the final reveal) and trying to put my feelings for the romance into actual words is just, not possible, because I have a lot of them, and lots of them involving being in love with Dean's soft interior and troubled imperfection and Michaels snark and up-front feelings, it's just so hard. This series is such a 'me' series, it has imperfect characters that I can't help but love, it has mystery and murder that remind me so much of my favourite crime shows, and it has a romance that, besides everything, is just beautiful. If you haven't yet checked out this series, you're missing out on a gem, and that, would be more fool you.


  1. I can't wait to read this one. I have to confess I wasn't really interested in the first one--just didn't sound like my sort of storyline--until I began reading lots of positive things about it. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It's good to hear about that character development, too. I did feel like the first one lacked that a touch.

    1. I do think the first was a little more mystery and romance centred, but the development because of the events in this first book, so yes, I do definitely think it's worth giving it a shot. Best of luck!<3


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