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Shelter More Adult than Juvenile Books Should Be

  • Chad Estes Contributing Writer
  • 2011 21 Sep
<i>Shelter</i> More Adult than Juvenile Books Should Be

Author: Harlan Coben  

TitleShelter: A Mickey Bolitar Novel  

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile  

Harlan Coben is a bestselling and award winning author known for his wit and the unique twists and turns in his novels. His latest book, Shelter, attempts the same humor and surprises but aims at a new audience - juvenile fiction readers. 


Coben introduced Mickey Bolitar in his latest adult novel, Live Wire, as the nephew of the fan-favorite Myron Bolitar. Now the uncle takes a back seat while the younger generation in town has mystery and suspense happen in their own lives. 


Shelter opens with Mickey moving in with his uncle after his father was killed in a car accident. His mother turned to drugs in order to cope with her despair and is now in a rehab center. Mickey's dad and his brother had been estranged for years and the awkwardness of being forced to live with this relative he didn't know, while still trying to grieve the loss of both of his parents, doesn't make Mickey's home life a Leave it to Beaver setting. 


Nothing seems to be working for Mickey in this transition. During orientation for his sophomore year of high school, he tries to stick up for a plump, Goth-dressed girl and ends up making both her and the teacher irritated at him. He is bullied by a couple of senior students, only to find out one of them is the captain of the varsity team on which Mickey really wants to make this year's squad. 


And then things get weird. Mickey starts to hang out with a pretty girl who also seems to be a bit out of place in the high school. Although Ashley and Mickey hit it off well, after the first couple of weeks she simply disappears. She leaves Mickey no note, no phone call, and no forwarding information. Not even the school administration knows where she has gone. Mickey believes something bad has happened to her. 


To top it all off, as Mickey is walking to school one morning the infamous "Bat Lady" of whom all of the town's children are terrified, appears on her doorstep calling him by name, "Mickey? Your father isn't dead. He is very much alive." She then disappears back into her dilapidated house and wouldn't answer when Mickey pounded repeatedly on the door for more answers. 


There is plenty of mystery and intrigue in Shelter and interesting enough characters to make this into a teen series. The storyline, however, delves into some dark areas—a strip club, sex trafficking, Nazi concentration camps, and some pretty extreme violence that keep this book leaning in the adult genre. Unfortunately the sometimes poorly written dialog and cliché high school events keep the book very juvenile. 


If you are already a Harlan Coben fan you might want to skip this offering. If, however, you were thinking of handing this book to your young teenager so they could follow one of Coben's mysteries, you'll probably want to read it and screen it ahead of time. 


*This review first published 9/21/2011