Thursday, April 4, 2013

Shelter by Harlan Coben

I'm always a little skeptical when an established writer of books for adults branches out into a YA series (think James Patterson and the Maximum Ride series, for one). Ever since the success of books like Twilight and The Hunger Games, etc., it can seem more a commercial move than a desire to truly write books that are appropriate for that audience.  So I hadn't intended to read this series - particularly as I've never read the adult mysteries Coben writes. But this mystery novel came up as a potential choice for my library system's summer reading recommendations for 6 - 8th graders, so I dutifully checked it out and took it home to read.

And wow, was I surprised and pleased with this! I couldn't put it down. High school sophomore Mickey Bolitar has lost his father, and his mother is in rehab.  He's just moved in with his uncle, a man who was estranged from Mickey's parents, so Mickey is not terribly inclined to trust him. Things are tough, but when Mickey starts going out with Ashley, a pretty girl at his school, things start to look up - until Ashley disappears. As Mickey searches for the truth behind Ashley's disappearance, he uncovers more and more mysteries, and the closer he gets to finding out what's really going on, the closer he gets to some dangerous and desperate people.

Coben clearly knows how to weave a tale with engaging, believable characters, and he ratchets up the tension to nearly unbearable levels as the story progresses.  While the summer reading committee decided that this one is better suited to high school students because of some of the mature content (a strip club, for example), I recommended it to my 14-year-old daughter, who loved it as much as I did. Mickey's love of sports (he's an excellent basketball player) is an extra aspect of the book that makes it appealing to sports fans when I've recommended it to teens at my library. I look forward to reading the sequel - as well as Coben's adult series.

Books in the Mickey Bolitar series:
1. Shelter
2. Seconds Away

Shelter (#1 in the Mickey Bolitar series) by Harlan Coben (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2011)

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