Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Review - Shelter by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben
Age Range: 12 and up
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Speak; Reprint edition (August 21, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0142422037
ISBN-13: 978-0142422038

First I have to say that I am a huge Coben fan, and have read almost all of his books and enjoyed them a lot. I have always liked Myron Bolitar as a character and was intrigued when I heard about this book featuring his nephew, Mickey Bolitar.

The book was written primarily for teens, but it is promoted for adult reading as well. The basic plot revolves around Mickey, a sophomore in high school, moving in with his uncle, Myron. This happens after Mickey's father is killed in an accident and his mother is put in drug rehab. Mickey and Myron have never gotten along, so Mickey lives in the basement of Myron's house, interacting with his uncle only when necessary.

At the new school, Mickey meets a girl, Ashley, and decides that maybe this new school will work out after all. Then Ashley mysteriously disappears, and Mickey is compelled to try to find out what happened to her. He discovers that Ashley is not who she said she was, and the investigation leads to danger and secrets from Mickey's father's past.

A nice premise, but it doesn't always work. There were several times when things happened that were unbelievable. At one point Mickey, who is over 6 feet tall, is hiding from bad guys behind some pillows. Ummm. Those had to be really big pillows. (smile) There were other places where no logic seemed to be applied to the plot, which was a surprise to me as Coben is normally so good at weaving an intricate, plausible story.

Mickey is an interesting character, and for the most part his dialogue fits a teen, as does the narration, but in other places it is too adult-sounding. Two supporting characters, Spoon and Ema, are nicely drawn and just quirky enough to pull the reader in. They are a bit of a cliche, but not enough to turn a reader away. One problem I found with the "voice" in the story is that there are times the narration reads as if Coben was in the mind of an adult. The book is written in first person, so everything should read like it is coming from a teen.

On the positive side, the interaction between Myron and Mickey reads well, as do the scenes between the teens. Coben is a master of good dialogue, and that is true in this story for the most part. The first half of the book was quite good, which is why I kept reading. It was toward the end that the plot line started to unravel.

As I said in the beginning, I normally love Coben's books, but this one was not his best effort. Perhaps he should stick to what he does best and leave the YA market to others.  

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