Book 1: The Naturals
Cassie Hobbes never thought her ability to read people was that special. Sure, she can look at someone and piece together who they are and what they want. But when the FBI takes an interest in Cassie for their Naturals program, she can’t help wondering what she is capable of doing.
Plus, FBI Agent Briggs lures her into the program by dangling her mother’s case. Cassie’s mom has been missing for five years and there still aren’t any leads.
Cassie agrees to join the program and finds herself in Quantico, Virginia with four other teenagers with extraordinary abilities. Dean can profile people, like Cassie. Lia is a human lie detector. Sloane knows statistics and numbers better than anyone. And then there’s Michael, who can read emotions without even trying.
While the five are only supposed to help with cold cases, they get dragged into an active case. The UNSUB (Unknown Subject) is closer than the Naturals thinks and the five must work together to make it out alive.
It’s amazing that Barnes has advanced degrees in psychology and cognitive science. The psychology aspect of the book is so important because Cassie spends a lot of time trying to get into people’s heads.
Cassie is a great MC. She struggles a lot at first because she never really had friends growing up. Her mom kept her away from everyone. So when she moved in with her dad’s family at 12, she kept everyone at arm’s length.
The other Naturals are all amazing. While we wish we got to know Sloane and Lia better, their abilities were so cool. Of course, there’s also a love triangle between Cassie, Dean and Michael. While the romance wasn’t the central focus, we found ourselves torn between the two guys. Michael’s cheeky sense of humor and ability to callout Cassie made him so funny. Dean, on the other hand, was reserved and more focused on protecting her from the darkness of the program.
We also enjoyed the setting, especially since we’re from the D.C. metro area. Cassie gets to D.C. and Arlington, as well as Quantico. Thanks Barnes for showing some love to our city.
The plot twist was everything though! The real case they get sucked into involves Cassie and her mom more than she ever expected. That ending had us so nervous for all the characters. With how the book wrapped up nicely with the case, we couldn’t wait to see what challenges this group faced in book 2.
Book 2: Killer Instinct
A few months after Cassie and her friends solved the case, another one is on the horizon. Emerson Cole, a student at Colonial College, is found on the president’s lawn. The case seems eerily similar to Dean’s dad, the notorious serial killer who has been behind bars for five years.
Desperate to know what happened, Lia, Michael and Cassie sneak out to a Colonial frat party to see who knew Emerson. Unfortunately, the new agent overseeing the Naturals program wants to see it gone. Agent Veronica Sterling, daughter of FBI Director Sterling, will do anything to keep these teens away from active cases.
But when more victims keep showing up and it looks like Dean’s dad has something to do with it, Sterling and Briggs need everyone to try to solve the case.
We did like this book more because the characters were more developed. The book focused a lot on Dean’s backstory and his dark childhood. Barnes did a great job of introducing us to his past and his father.
Killer Instinct was even more intense, especially since we were dealing with more than one UNSUB. Seriously, we feared for Cassie at the end! This girl has been through more than one should. But, we admire her intelligence and her desire to save everyone.
The romance was also really cute. Both Dean and Michal put themselves out there and we truly felt bad for the one she didn’t choose. Unlike most YA books with romance, we had a hard time choosing between the two.
Overall, we loved how twisted the plot was and it was more difficult to figure out than the first book. It left us needing book 3 right away.
Book 3: All In
The Naturals are finally allowed to work on active cases, as long as their caretaker Judd gives to go ahead. It’s January now and after the holiday season, the Naturals head to Las Vegas, Nevada to track down a new UNSUB, who targets victims in casinos. Unlike the previous two cases, Sloane notices a pattern in how this person attacks and chooses victims.
The Fibonacci sequence is the UNSUB’s pattern. The sequence is found by adding two numbers together. For example, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8. etc. The FBI has multiple suspects, but it’s hard to keep track because the Naturals need to wait for the UNSUB to strike on a Fibonacci date. All they know, this person believes patterns and numbers matter.
But something more sinister is under the surface. For some reason, this case feels related to what happened to Cassie’s mom. Can this group figure out the pattern before it is too late?
All In knocked it out of the park. Barnes had to do intensive research for this book and small details from the first two books became important in this one. It really impressed us how all the cases are connected in small ways and all the details matters.
Sloane became a much larger focus in the book and we enjoyed learning more about her background. Her unique ability shined in this book as she dealt with past drama and took the lead on the current case.
The Vegas setting also felt fresh because of all the trouble five teenagers could get into in an amusing way. I mean, staying in a fancy hotel street on the strip? There’s bound to be antics.
The case became even more interesting than the previous two because this UNSUB has a fascinating backstory that leads to a cult called the Masters. While we didn’t learn much about the cult, it’s been around since the 1800s.
The relationship drama continued and Michael and Dean can’t help the tension over Cassie. Even though she’s made a choice, the other one refuses to be cast aside.
Overall, this is the best book yet! All In leads to an even bigger mystery in book 4.
Book 4: Bad Blood
It’s been weeks and Cassie and her friends are nowhere closer to learning about the Masters. Since Cassie learned that their secrets involve her, she’s more determined than ever to take them down.
From a trip to upstate New York and to a small town in Oklahoma, Cassie starts remembering things from her past that she must have blocked. As pieces come back and the group finds themselves around a new cult, they feel like there has to be a link to the Masters.
With bits and pieces of Cassie’s childhood returning, she’s closer than ever to finding the group that has hurt so many people through the years. With seven Masters, a woman to serve as judge and jury and the child to make nine, Cassie thinks she knows who some of the members could be. But, this case is more dangerous than ever before.
Wow, wow, wow and wow. This series got dark. We know, it sounded dark before. But this book made the others look like a day at the beach. Barnes literally shocked us.
The pacing of the book left us with constant tension. Until the end, when Cassie faced her biggest test of all. We can’t believe Barnes would do this to the characters? Some of the betrayals hit close to home.
We also got more Lia’s and Michael’s backstories, which made everything come full circle in character development. These two also have an interesting dynamic in this book.
Cassie finally learns her family secrets and we wish we could have helped her. She’s such a great MC and she deserves a vacation after all of this. At least she has a great team at the FBI.
Overall, the series ended really well. We love the friendship between the characters and wish we could read more about them. Bad Blood had everything: twists, romance, suspense and dynamic characters.