05. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Mystery, Teen Books

Shelter by Harlan Coben, 304 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/08/2012

Mickey Bolitar’s life has been turned upside down. His father has recently died in a car accident. His bereaved mother is in rehab. Mickey is living at his uncle Myron’s place and going to school for the first time in his life. Prior to the accident and everything, Mickey and his family traveled the world on humanitarian missions, but his parents decided that Mickey could use a dose of “normal” teenage life. Obviously, things did not work out that way. Mickey thought things were looking up when he got a girlfriend, but now she is missing without a trace. What else is a guy to do but try and figure out what happened to her? Oh, and the scary lady(known locally as “the Bat Lady”) in the ghastly-looking house at the end of the block made a rare appearance to tell Mickey that his father was still alive. Which is perplexing to Mickey as he was in the same car accident that killed his father and watched his father die. So there are a couple of strange goings-on that Mickey feels compelled to figure out. Good thing he’s got a couple of quirky friends: overweight and emo-styled Ema, and the non-sequitur-spewing, geeky-looking Spoon. Ema and Spoon appear to be along for the ride, no matter how strange things get. And they do get a bit strange.
In fact, the entire plot is pretty convoluted and Mickey is a unrealistically perfect protagonist. His travels around the world magically make him an expert in martial arts. His genetics have apparently conspired to make him both brilliant and a very talented basketball player. His cohorts are clearly meant to be a sharp contrast to seemingly perfect Mickey. Ema is pretty cool, but she comes across as a bitter stereotype (which fortunately eases up as the novel wears on). Spoon might have some form of autism, but he ultimately winds up being the token comic relief character. There are plenty of bad guys to jeer at, all of them completely one-dimensional. Mystery on top of mystery keeps the story moving though and readers will probably forgive the excessive foreshadowing and contrived characters. For me, there’s not enough good going on here to make me want to nominate it for the state awards list. This just reads like a book meant for readers who have moved beyond Carolyn Cooney and Peg Kehret.

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