01 November, 2016

{Review} Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Naturals, book 4
Published November 1, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

New victims. New betrayals. New secrets.

When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI's Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother's murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. 

As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock.

When the bodies begin piling up, it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren't just hunting serial killers.

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My Review

♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫

* * W A R N I N G * *
this review will contain spoilers for books 1-3


It isn't a series finale if it doesn't fuck you up at some point and/or (but really just and) make you cry at one (or many) points. 

Can you believe that a year or so ago, I shelved the first book under 'lost-interest-or-wont-continue"? Absolutely ridiculous. It's a good thing I tend to overlook my own decisions when it comes to books because by not having read The Naturals sooner, I was doing myself a great disservice. This book is amazing. It is unique and thrilling and messes with you in ways I haven't seen many other books do--other than the author's other thriller series, The Fixer. I've seen this series compared to the show Criminal Minds and I agree--it definitely has that vibe.

I already put in the spoiler thingy, but I'm doing it again. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST THREE BOOKS, either look away OR spoil yourself despite my warning. (I love spoilers and if you're like me, you're only going to cause yourself pain.)

Bad Blood picks up several weeks after the events of All In--Cassie has found out that her mother is actually alive and she's giving everything she has to find out more about the people who took her. Even if that means giving pieces of herself away to get leads, she won't stop until she achieves her goal. But time, as it always seems to be the problem, is against them. The group that captured Cassie's mom has its own agenda to fulfill and it won't be along until another body turns up.

I feel like there's this unspoken rule in YA where, if a major character's Important Person is "dead", we can hesitantly assume that they are actually still alive. As a person who watches too many superhero shows, you'd think I'd be less surprised but All In definitely surprised me with that bombshell. (Along with another but I'm never going to be ready to acknowledge that.) With most mystery or thriller novels I've read, I found the twists to be predictable or boring or underwhelming. With Barnes' writing, you never really know what is going to happen. She constantly keeps her readers on their toes.

So it's safe to say that I love Barnes' writing. And her characters. And her plots. 

But it's always her characters. They broke me, time and time again throughout this book. Every time THEY hurt themselves or had someone who hurt them, I was in pain. I felt like crying no less that 20 times while reading this book. Every moment Cassie picked up on something that was self-destructive in Michael and Lia, my heart clenched. Every time Sloane felt helpless and useless, tears pricked my eyes. Many authors have me attached to their characters, but it's never in such a way where, if anything happens to them, I wouldn't be able to function for a short while.

Every single character was vibrant and fresh and real. I love how Barnes' gives us background on all of the Naturals--book one was Cassie; book two, Dean; book three, heartbreaking and soul-crushing book three, Sloane. In Bad Blood, we get snippets of Lia's time in the cult; we get to meet Michael's father, the reason why Michael is so volatile. Seeing them when they were so vulnerable... It was terrible. It was real. I can't even think about it without needing a moment.

What's more is the camaraderie between all of them. They're all sarcastic with one another, but you know they're each others family. And home isn't a place for them--it's people. SO no matter what kind of shit they go through, they always have each others back. No matter who goes down that self-destructive rabbit hole, they have each other's back. Be it Dean or Cassie or Lia or Michael or Sloane--especially my precious Sloane--the Naturals will come for you. And when they aren't breaking my heart, when they're just being sarcastic teenagers and playing truth or dare (or as I like to call it, soul-baring sessions), you can feel that easy friendship. 

And they've all grown so much. I remember when Dean and Michael were always tense around each other, both itching for a fight. I remember when Lia was hella wary of Cassie. I love seeing them grow into something more. I don't know how to explain it--I just know that in the span of these four books, they're not the same people. Even Dean and Michael sort of get along in this book. And Cassie! She's gone from only having her mother to having such amazing people in her life. I love them all so much.

There was something Barnes did differently in this book that she didn't do in her others--she told us who You is. The books are told from two points of view--the main is Cassie's first person; the other, at certain intervals, is the UNSUB's--unknown subject--and we normally don't figure out who that is until the very end. I didn't want to believe it when she first dropped that, but soon it was hard to ignore. And if that wasn't terrible enough, there were countless other twists I never would have expected.

I want to go over the plot briefly--but I'm not sure I would make a lot of sense. It starts with Cassie pouring over every little thing she can to find her mother. It includes a kidnapping early on (which introduces to a new character that I love!) then to bringing back Nightingale, who is part of the group that has Cassie's mother. After that, it's basically a trip down memory lane for Cassie... if only she could remember the past. It'm oversimplifying it, but there are constant twists and wtf??? moments.

At times, this is what it felt like when they somehow managed to uncover a lead or find some sorta hidden meaning in something:


It took me ages to find this image.

So yeah.

Anyway! DEFINITELY pick up this series--and The Fixer! They're amazing books, especially if you miss the thrilling heist-y parts from Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. (They aren't heist books, though. They're political thrillers, but have the same tense urgency as the Dregs series. Or, at least, I think so.)

Having poured out all that, in which it was just me telling you guys how badly the characters made me emotional, I give this an easy 5-stars.

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