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On the Bookshelf

Local Librarian Recommends YA Mystery Author Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Hello, readers! My name is Hailey Carrell (they/them). I am a library associate at Norman Public Library West and an avid reader.

There is one author in particular who has been one of my favorites since I first read their work in 2015. Someone introduced me to a series they described as a young adult version of Criminal Minds. I promptly sought out these books and have been a huge fan ever since. When this opportunity to write about a local author came up, I knew immediately who I would write about.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes, born in Tulsa, has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her first published book was written when she was 19. If that’s not impressive enough, she sold her first five books while still in college. After attending university outside of Oklahoma (Yale and Cambridge), Jennifer became an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, teaching psychology and professional writing.

Many readers may know Jennifer her most recent, New York Times bestselling series, The Inheritance Games, in which we meet Avery, who is living in her car when she receives an invitation to the reading of billionaire Tobias Hawthorne’s will. To her utter shock (and that of the Hawthorne family, too), Tobias leaves his fortune to Avery, seemingly a complete stranger. This ongoing series is full of puzzles, riddles and more twists than you can count. However, as someone who has followed this author’s books for years, I want to highlight some of her other series that I have loved.

The Naturals is the first in a thrilling quartet (plus a novella) that follows a group of teens who have been recruited by the FBI based on their natural profiling abilities: the child of a conwoman, a human lie detector, an emotion reader, a genius with a photographic memory, and the son of a serial killer. Believe me when I say I could talk about this series in my sleep.

Jennifer’s next series is the duology of The Fixer and The Long Game, which sees Tess forced to move from her grandfather’s ranch to live with her sister, who is known as the go-to person when the D.C. elite need a situation “fixed.”

Next, Jennifer introduces us to the world of debutantes in the duology Little White Lies and Deadly Little Scandals. Sawyer is thrown into a whole new world when her estranged grandmother presents a six-figure contract, dependent on Sawyer completing the debutante season. Sawyer is hesitant at first, but then she decides this is the perfect opportunity to infiltrate this side of the family … and finally discover her father’s identity.

I have been fortunate enough to meet Jennifer multiple times. One of the perks of being a fan of a local author is they do local book signings! I still have the first picture I took with her (see this page). Since 2015, I’ve been able to attend her book release parties every year, virtual or in person, except for this year. She has also been kind enough to do a visit to a virtual book club for my library system. I am always fascinated listening to her talk about her books and her writing process. It can be nerve-wracking to meet favorite authors, but Jennifer is one of the nicest people I have ever met.

As a mystery reader, I often find myself piecing things together before the reveals. However, Jennifer somehow always manages to surprise me, which keeps me coming back for more. I can honestly say that I have never fully figured out any of her books. So, if you’re looking for a local YA mystery author, I can’t recommend Jennifer Lynn Barnes enough.

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