Shelter: A Mickey Bolitar Novel


Author: Harlan Coben

Publication: G.P. Putnam, 2011

Pages: 288

Overall Rating:   bth_45_zps06f87659[1]                     

Rating for Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  Mickey Bolitar’s father is dead, his mother is in rehab, and he’s living with his Uncle Myron.  Before all their troubles, Mickey’s family travelled the world, working for a charitable organization that helped poor children.  It was shortly after their decision to quit and return to the US that his father died and his mother got hooked on drugs.  Now, for the first time, he’s going to an American high school and trying to figure out how to put his life back together.  Then a local crazy woman known as the Bat Lady tells him that his dead is alive and well, and shortly after that his girlfriend goes missing.  Now Mickey is searching for the truth about his dad and on the trail of his girlfriend, determined to find out what happened and rescue her if he can.  But Mickey is rushing into something far bigger than himself, and if he’s not careful he’ll wind up dead.

Age of Main Character: 15

What I Liked the Most: Coben does a fantastic job tossing out one crazy, gut wrenching plot twist after another, flipping the story back and forth with amazing speed.  But somehow all the different elements come together in the end, forming a powerful story that neatly sets the stage for the next book in the series.  Each chapter ends with a hook and twist powerful enough to drive you right into the next one.  This is tension and suspense at its best.

Those of you who have read any of Coben’s other books featuring Myron Bolitar might find yourself waiting for the moment when Myron steps in to save the day.  But Coben never lets that happen.  You know Myron’s in the background – one word from Mickey and he could probably solve anything.  But Mickey knows nothing about his Uncle’s secret life and never really opens up to him.  Despite the background presence of Myron, this is Mickey’s story through and through and he has to handle everything that comes at him without help from his uncle.

Unlike some young adult novels, Coben gets his characters into a situation so dangerous and crazy that it seems impossible they could survive without adult help, and yet he always finds a plausible way to get them out without involving a grown-up.

What I Liked the Least: This is minor.  Above, I said that I liked the fact that Mickey goes through this whole story without assistance from his uncle Myron, despite the fact that Myron could easily have stepped in and cleaned up everything for him.  That’s true.  But part of what made that work for me is that I’ve read some of Coben’s other books featuring Myron.  Unfortunately, many people reading the Mickey Bolitar books might not have read one of those other books.  They might not know anything about Myron and his ‘skills’.  That knowledge provided a certain amount of tension to this story.  Would Myron step in?  And when it became clear that he wouldn’t, would Mickey be able to survive on his own without help from his uncle?  To make that tension work for people who’ve never read a Myron Bolitar novel, it seems like Coben should have provided at least a few clues or references to who Myron really is.

How Good was the Action?  Excellent. The fights and chases here are very well done.  Mickey doesn’t hold back on his feelings when he’s forced into a violent situation and Coben doesn’t an excellent job balancing action and emotions.  There are some great, bone crunching fights with plenty of blood and bruises, but throughout each one we can feel the rapid beat of Mickey’s heart, the fear pulsing through his veins, and that makes each fight so much more powerful.

How Engaging was the Story?   Coben does a good job developing Mickey’s character and establishing some solid and believable relationships with his new friends Ema and Spoon.  Ema in particular is a fun and intriguing character.  But what really drives this story forward are the constant plot twists, each one adding in a new piece of the puzzle that drives us toward the ultimate – and intriguing – end of the story.  There was more than one time when I had to set the book down and say ‘Wow, I did not see that one coming.’

Overall Assessment: Shelter is a fast paced suspense novel with some top notch action scenes and enough gut wrenching plot twists to make anyone sea sick.  In short, it’s a wild ride, the kind of thing that’s almost impossible to put down, because you just have to know what’s going to happen next and how Mickey and his friends are going to escape with their lives.  This is not serious literature, and it’s not romance, it’s just good rollicking fun.

Profanity: Yes.  There’s not a lot, but it does come up once in a while.

Sex: Some.  Part of the action takes place in a strip club, but that said most of it is described vaguely and with plenty of innuendo.  There’s no actual sex of any kind and even the scenes in the club are kept relatively tame.  The focus is more on the how tough the life of an exotic dancers can be than on any descriptions of what actually takes place in a club.

Violence: Yes.  The violence is fairly direct, with blood, pain, and broken noses.  Coben doesn’t mince words – when someone gets hurt in this book, he lets you know about it.

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