Thursday, February 23, 2012

Edgar Nominee Review: Shelter by Harlan Coben

This time of year is always a delight for me as the YA Sleuth, because I get to read the Edgar nominees for best YA. I don't normally post reviews here, mostly because there are many blogs and websites that do a much better job than I could here.

But! For the Edgar nominees, I make an exception. See, I started this blog a few years ago because I had a hard time finding solid mysteries in the YA department of my library and bookstore. So now I like to report on the Edgar nominees to check on the quality of mysteries in YA, and kid lit too.

Here are my thoughts on Edgar nominee Shelter, by Harlan Coben: 

I started reading this book with an extra sceptical eye when I saw who the author was--I know, not fair. But often when a writer crossed from fiction for adults to fiction for kids, it doesn't produce the best books. Writing for teens is just a different beast, and it's not for every author.

But Shelter had me pleasantly surprised. Sure, it opened with a few YA cliches: the protagonist is the new kid in town, we're in the cafeteria, sizing up the cliques, etc. But the voice was spot-on: fun, snappy dialogue, with a hint of dry wit. So I could look past the familiar trappings of YA, and stick around to see what our lead character Mickey was going to do about the disappearance of his hot sort-of girlfriend Ashley.

We meet Ema, the outcast, overweight goth girl, and Spoon, the geek--fun characters who become Mickey's best friends as he tries to uncover why Ashley disappeared, and how his father's death links to the mystery he's trying to solve. Rapid pace, snappy dialogue, and heroic acts that push the boundaries of the old suspension of disbelief but don't break them make Shelter loads of fun to read.

Mystery quotient: a four out of five, mostly because it felt more like a thriller at times.

Verdict: Perfect for the reluctant reader.

Side note:
Aside from simply enjoying the book, I was very excited to read it because I hear so often that YA for boys doesn't sell, and how men don't read as much as women. We need more books like Shelter, ones that read like commercial thrillers but are written for teens. I hope we'll see more Mickey Bolitar books from Coben, whether the book wins this Edgar (or Anthony--Shelter got a nomination for that as well) or not.


  1. Glad he was up to the task. And I do say up because getting teens to read is critical.

  2. I loved Shelter. Mickey was the kind of kid I wished I knew in high school. I to loved that this was a boy's YA. And even better was a crime thriller YA.

  3. Exactly--that boy YA is tough to do. This is the kind of book you'd give to the kid who's given up on reading. Exciting to discover it. Now I hope he'll write another one :-)

  4. Ema was by far my favourite character in this, and I'm curious to find out more about her past. To be honest, she's what kept me reading throughout this--the rest of the book was a little OTT for me.

    Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting