Book Review: Shelter
Author: Harlan Coben
Published By: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication Date: 6 September 2011
Page Count: 288 (hardcover), 336 (paperback)
Source: ebook purchased from Barnes & Noble
Audience: Young Adult – Mystery
One of the first books I ever reviewed was Harlan Coben's Tell No One for my college newspaper twelve years ago, it was also the first book I had ever read by him. When I began reading his teen series to review, it brought back fond memories. I became a fan with that first book and have read many more of his since; and when Shelter was first released I was curious to see how he did with a teen audience. I think for his first book, he did a pretty decent job.
Shelter, the first book in the Mickey Bolitar series, is about Mickey Bolitar, a fifteen-year-old boy who feels like he has lost everything and his life has been turned upside down. His dad died, his mom is in rehab, he is at a brand new school living with an uncle he never knew, and now his girlfriend has disappeared.
His life gets even crazier when a lady he has only heard rumors about – we've all heard the stories growing up of the old lady who lives in a rundown and seemingly abandoned house who steals children – tells him his father is still alive. This sets Mickey on a confusing and dangerous path as he begins searching for not only his missing girlfriend, but also for clues to his father's death. He makes friends along the way who help him out and become vital in his attempts to find answers.
I really enjoyed reading this first teen book by Harlan Coben. He creates a strong and unique character in Mickey. In Coben's adult books, you have a far more gritty, dark, and violent world and some characters that are very much loners in a way. With Mickey, Coben realized that a teenager who has gone through all he has needs some strong friendships to help him along the way. Ema, Spoon, and Rachel are great support characters. They not only help him to solve the puzzles surrounding the disappearance of his girlfriend, they also become his surrogate family. Where he can't open to his uncle, he finds himself opening up to his friends.
I do feel like the story was almost too simplified. I wanted more detail into Mickey's past, and even into present events. There were a few parts that showed the darkness and violence of Coben's adult books, but not as much of the sophistication. It's almost as if the story is lacking something because it is for a younger audience. But in saying that, it was still a well written story.
I liked how Mickey's past – he traveled around the world with his parents – was able to help him in some of the situations he found himself in during his search. Coben did a good job of creating a past that would benefit his present story, even though as I said previously I wanted more of his past.
I am looking forward to reading Mickey's continuing adventures and search for the truth. Coben has two more books out in this series at present: Second Chance and Found.
One Last Thought: I have never read the Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben, but I have read some of his other books. I like how he intertwines his teen series with the Myron Bolitar ones. I am curious enough to read them and see if Mickey shows up in those as well.
Favorite Thing About This Book: I love the loyalty formed between the group of teenagers Mickey become friends with.
First Sentence: I was walking to school, lost in feeling sorry for myself – my dad was dead, my mom in rehab, my girlfriend missing – when I saw the Bat Lady for the first time.
Favorite Character: Ema
Least Favorite Character: Buddy Ray
Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools. Fortunately, he's met a great girl, Ashley, and it seems like things might finally be improving.But then Ashley vanishes.
Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that Ashley isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.