Nov 9, 2015

Review: All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

TitleAll In
Authors: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publishing Date: November 3, 2015
Pages/Format: 378, Hardcover
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Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days.

After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team's unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes.

Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there's been a break in her mother's case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices.


I've been looking forward to this book for over a year. Both The Naturals and Killer Instinct were freaking amazing and basically flawless, and they made The Naturals series one of my favorites. So to say that I was excited for this third installment is a major understatement. This. Series. It's that good. But with all the goodness comes serious expectations, and if you're a reader, then you know that expectations and hype for a book can be rocky territory. So let's talk about All In.

(Here there be spoilers for the first two books.) All In picks up some time after Killer Instinct left off: the Naturals have been through another tough case, they're no longer working on just cold cases (though they're still kind of a secret), and, most importantly, my ship has sailed and Cassie and Dean are together. (Sorry not sorry, Michael. But I SHIP IT.) Wheels are up and the Naturals head off on a plane (see, this is so a YA version of Criminal Minds--but better) toward the city of sin. Classy Las Vegas casinos and hotels are being terrorized by a killer with a rather indiscernible pattern, and it has the Naturals working hard--and, of course, doing some foolery--to try to find the killer before he or she strikes. Add in some drama and personal problems for a number of the Naturals, and you've got a lot of shit going down in one crazy city.

One of the things about this series that works so well (and Barnes's The Fixer, for that matter) is a number of things, actually, but for now I'm going to talk about the characters. The Naturals each have distinct personalities that play into their natural talents (and penchants for being able to solve crimes) and create characters who just pop off the page. You've got Cassie--our protagonist--a profiler who lost her mom to a gruesome murder. Dean's a profiler too, but his dad is a serial killer, and a very big and bad one at that. Cassie and Dean both excel at picturing themselves as the killer, putting themselves in that head space. (I ship them SO HARD and I need Cassie and Dean to be together forever and more kissing pleaseee.) Michael's the rich kid with an abusive father, and he can read emotions with the blink of an eye--seriously, he can look at you and know exactly what you're thinking. Lia's the human lie detector, and that makes her an excellent liar. I'd be careful around her and Michael--they're the best troublemakers. And lastly is Sloane, who's a mix between Reid's brain and Garcia's computer skills. We don't know much about her past or Lia's, but maaaybe we learn more in this book. But THE CHARACTERS. A+++. Love them.

Now, there are two other things Jennifer Lynn Barnes does extremely well. Firstly, she can write. I read Raised by Wolves years ago and can't really compare it to her newer works, but I've noticed that Barnes clearly knows what she's doing. Remember what I said about The Naturals and Killer Instinct at the beginning of this review? Basically flawless. And I wasn't kidding. The other thing Barnes does extremely well is create a story. She figures out a killer(s) and plans a murder and knows all the steps and everything. I may think I found a hole, but then on the next page she fills that hole. (There was one instance where I wondered why they didn't just bring Lia in, but whatever.) And I thought I guessed the killer for once. I usually cannot because Barnes is that good. But of course, I WAS WRONG. I don't know how Barnes does it. She puts it all in. But she has these stories down to an art, and I need at least five million of them. At least.

But with all this fantastic amazingness and perfection going around, there's bound to be a letdown somewhere. Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's the hype and expectations I had for this book--seriously, I love this series, and I have been WAITING for this book--but I didn't feel this book quite like I did the others. And it pains me to say that. My gosh, it pains me. Perhaps part of it was the story--I was waiting for that bang (which I eventually got, I think), and parts would be figured out but I didn't understand what was going on. Something just wasn't there, and it so totally kills me. Don't worry--I definitely liked this book. I'd give it at least four stars. But I just think that something was missing and waaaaaahhh.

If you haven't read this series, then I don't even know how to tell you that you are missing out. It is pure greatness. Sure, it can be gruesome and bloody and creepy, but it's also got excellent character dynamics and twists and turns that are sure to have you twisting and turning as you read on to see how the hell the story will end. (Because it has to end well...right?) SPEAKING OF WHICH. All In was very hard to put down. Like, very hard. I was up late reading the day I got it (I had to start late, poo), and then I stupidly fell asleep, and when I woke up I picked it up and read until I finished. These books are very unputdownable and will keep you up late reading, and I love that. Also, that ending. WHAT THE HELL. I'm pretty sure giving us that kind of information and then ending the book and making us wait a YEAR to find out what happens next is illegal. In fact, I'm positive. But honestly, I need book four right freaking now. And I know that there at least four books in this series, but at least four isn't enough. Do you see how many seasons and episodes there are of Criminal Minds? You have a lot of catching up to do, Jennifer Lynn Barnes. (But no character changes because no.)

Did I like it? Yesss.
Did I love it? Not quite, I think?
Would I reread it? Of course.
Would I purchase it? Please, this was preordered.
Who would I recommend it to? Definitely for fans of Criminal Minds. And if you like books with really, really strong characters, then this is for you. I'd also recommend this for fans of thrillers and crime novels and books that are just good.

1 comment:

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