Shelter Review

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Title: Shelter
Author: Harlan Coben
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Published: September 6, 2011
Genre: YA, Mystery
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

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.


  1. This sounds like a great adventure, thriller story. The kind where it's not so important if it's a little predictable. I've never read any of Coban's books either. I wonder if this would be a good one for reluctant teen boy readers.

  2. Great review Melissa! I really like books that have strong distinctive secondary characters :)

  3. When I saw the cover for this, I thought for sure you were reviewing an adult book. So it's interesting to read that this author mainly writes for adults. I love a well crafted mystery and plot so perhaps this is a book that I would truly enjoy!

  4. The name sounds familiar...he writes Adult books?

  5. I do like a good mystery every now and then, especially if the author is able to execute it well. And I sort of got excited when you mentioned that even the supporting characters were great - for some reason that's how I've always felt about Ron and Hermione! haha

  6. Harlan Coben wrote a YA mystery? When did this happen?! :O I have just a read a few of the author's books, but I enjoyed them enough to want to read this book. Great review!

  7. Thanks for putting this on my radar! I'll definitely be adding it to my to-reads list and checking it out.

  8. I've been wondering about this one, I have it in my pile but hadn't read much about it so I wasn't sure it was going to be one I picked up. I love the sound of the secondary characters though, I always like when they steal the show:)

  9. I've read a couple of the Bolitar books, but I actually like his others better. Tell No One is NOT TO BE MISSED -- one of my all time favorites.

    Thanks for the excellent review!

  10. Realistic thriller? Sounds good. Must read this. I've not read that many, but this seems good. And I think I read one of his adult books...never really liked it...maybe this will be a bit better...

  11. I haven't read any of Harlan Coben's adult books, either. Glad to hear you can still enjoy Shelter without reading them! I love when a book features fab secondary characters, so that's a definite plus! I'll probably check Shelter out--I've been curious about this book for a while. Great review! :)

  12. Aww,too bad. I was thinking that this book will get a better rating cause its been promoted a lot. Thanks for the review!

  13. I've read a couple of Coben's adult standalones and I've enjoyed them, although when you've read a few, they can become a little samey and predictable. I'm looking forward to reading his first foray in YA! :)

  14. I definitely appreciate well developed secondary characters, but when they surpass the main? Epe! That paired with the too convenient scenes makes me think this one probably isn't for me, but I'm glad you enjoyed the action. :)

  15. Like you, I haven't read this author's adult series (despite being an adult...some days) but I've heard good things about this one and am intrigued. This sounds like one I need to read because I have a feeling my students might enjoy this one (they're always pestering me for mysteries).
    Thanks for the review,
    Mary @ Book Swarm

  16. Sounds like a good first dip in the YA genre for him. Perhaps he'll get the teenage voice better has he goes along. Love it when secondary characters are so good!

  17. I didn't even know Harlan Coban or Kathy Reichs were writing YA now! I guess everyone is getting on the YA train! I don't think I've read any Harlan Coban but I might get this one for my 14 yr old. Great review, great details!



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