Author: Harlan Coben
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Published: September 6, 2011
Genre: YA, Mystery
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.
A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey's train-wreck of a life is finally improving - until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that this seemingly sweet, shy girl isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon, Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it makes high school drama seem like a luxury - and leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.
Mickey should have known nothing was as it seemed. He thought his year couldn't get worse than his father dying and his mother's breakdown, but switching schools is the icing on the cake. Mickey is surprised, however, to find that he makes unusual friends and he even has his eye on a pretty girl in school. But when Ashley vanishes, Mickey finds that his uncle's deep-seeded determination to help those he cares about him is rooted within him, as well. Mickey's quest to save Ashley unfolds a bizarre and mysterious conspiracy though, and he's about to learn that nothing is as it seems, and those he trusts most might not be the best to trust in after all.
I'll be honest. I've never read anything by Harlan Coben, but I will say that I've heard amazing things about his Myron Bolitar series for adults. Yes, I know I'm an adult. That's neither here nor there. Harlan Coben is a masterful plotter, merging an intricate story into a pulse-pounding adventure that's sure to delight younger readers. Shelter's prose is simple without feeling dumbed-down, the characters are relatable without feeling false and the story is cohesive from start to finish. It's the perfect way to set up an intriguing mystery series.
Shelter is a prime example of when a good book features secondary characters that truly take the cake. I liked Mickey, don't get me wrong. He was sincere, genuine and felt real, but his friends, Ema and Spoon surpass him in intrigue. Ema was a tough girl, though perhaps a bit stereotyped as a goth, but she had this strength that just resounded throughout the story and made her the ultimate bad-ass sidekick. Spoon provided picture-perfect comic relief with his nerdiness that added an element of humour to a pretty intense story. They fed well into the overall plot of Shelter, fueling it along. I will admit that I had a few issues with Shelter - the most prominent being that some scenes seemed a bit too convenient. If a character or object was needed to further the story, it would seemingly appear out of thin air without any backstory. Don't get me wrong - I know that not everything needs backstory, but if it's crucial to the plot, I want to know it was there all along. My only other real issue with Shelter was the use of certain terms and references that I simply don't think apply to the teenage populace today. Perhaps that's an issue of an author transitioning from adult to YA, though, and it's a personal preference, as it didn't really hinder the story.
Overall, Shelter was an action-packed and intriguing story that's sure to set up another great series. Plus, it's one of the few YA thrillers without a paranormal element, so that's a bonus. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy mysteries and thrillers. Fans of Harlan Coben will likely enjoy this new series.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.