Shelter (Mickey Bolitar Series #1)

Shelter (Mickey Bolitar Series #1)

4.2 188
by Harlan Coben

View All Available Formats & Editions

The stunning young adult debut from international bestseller Harlan Coben is now in paperback!

Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools. Fortunately, he's met a great girl, Ashley, and it seems like things might finally

…  See more details below


The stunning young adult debut from international bestseller Harlan Coben is now in paperback!

Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools. Fortunately, he's met a great girl, Ashley, and it seems like things might finally be improving. But then Ashley vanishes. Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that Ashley isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

First introduced to readers in Harlan Coben's novel Live Wire Mickey Bolitar is as quick-witted and clever as his uncle Myron, and eager to go to any length to save the people he cares about. Follow Mickey Bolitar on his next adventure in Seconds Away, coming out in Fall 2012!

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Shelter begins one of the oddest—and most appealing spinoff series in recent years. Harlan Coben is, of course, a bestselling adult author, best known for his thrillers featuring sports agent Myron Bolitar. In Live Wire, the 10th and most recent episode, we were introduced to Myron's nephew Mickey, who now emerges in his own teen series. In Shelter, the youngster copes with some adult-sized problems, including his father's death, his mother's drug abuse problems, switching high schools, and his new living situation. Everything seems less pressing, however, than the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of a new girlfriend.

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Mickey Bolitar Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
HL530L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Normal0falsefalsefalseMicrosoftInternetExplorer4st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }/* Style Definitions */table.MsoNormalTable{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;mso-style-noshow:yes;mso-style-parent:"";mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;mso-para-margin:0in;mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;mso-pagination:widow-orphan;font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-ansi-language:#0400;mso-fareast-language:#0400;mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

Chapter 1

I was walking to school, lost in feeling sorry for myself—my dad was dead, my mom in rehab, my girlfriend missing—when I saw the Bat Lady for the first time.

I had heard the rumors, of course. The Bat Lady supposedly lived alone in the dilapidated house on the corner of Hobart Gap Road and Pine. You know the one. I stood in front of it now. The worn yellow paint was shedding like an old dog. The once-solid concrete walk was cracked into quarter-size fragments. The uncut lawn had dandelions tall enough for the adult rides at Six Flags.

The Bat Lady was said to be a hundred years old and only came out at night, and if some poor child hadn’t made it home from a playdate or practice at the Little League field before nightfall—if he or she risked walking home in the dark instead of getting a ride, or was maybe crazy enough to cut through her yard—the Bat Lady got you.

What she supposedly did with you was never made clear. No child had vanished from this town in years. Teenagers, like my girlfriend, Ashley, sure, they could be here one day, holding your hand, looking deep into your eyes, making your heart go boom-boom-boom—and be gone the next. But little kids? Nope. They were safe, even from the Bat Lady.

So I was just about to cross to the other side of the street—even I, a mature teenager entering my sophomore year at a brand-new high school, wanted to avoid that spooky house—when the door creaked open.

I froze.

For a moment, nothing happened. The door was all the way open now, but no one was there. I stopped and waited. Maybe I blinked. I can’t be sure.

But when I looked again, the Bat Lady was there.

She could have been a hundred years old. Or maybe two hundred. I had no idea why they called her Bat Lady. She didn’t look like a bat. Her hair was gray and hippie long, hanging down to her waist. It blew in the wind, obscuring her face. She wore a torn white gown that resembled a bridal costume in an old horror movie or heavy-metal video. Her spine was bent like a question mark.

Slowly Bat Lady raised a hand so pale it was more vein-blue than white, and pointed a shaky, bony finger in my direction. I said nothing. She kept pointing until she was sure I was looking. When she saw that I was, Bat Lady’s wrinkled face spread into a smile that sent little icicles down my spine.


I had no idea how she knew my name.

“Your father isn’t dead,” Bat Lady said.

Her words sent a jolt that knocked me back a step.

“He is very much alive.”

But standing there, watching her vanish back into her decrepit cave, I knew what she was telling me wasn’t true.

Because I had seen my father die.

Okay, that was weird.

I stood in front of Bat Lady’s house and waited for her to come back out. No go. I walked over to her door and looked for a doorbell. There was none, so I started pounding on the door. It shook under the onslaught. The wood was so rough it scraped my knuckles like sandpaper. Paint chips fell off as if the door had a bad case of dandruff.

But the Bat Lady did not appear.

So now what? Kick down the door . . . and then what? Find an old lady in a weird white dress and demand she explain her whack-a-doodle rants? Maybe she had gone upstairs. Maybe Bat Lady was now getting ready for her loony day, changing out of her white dress, heading to the shower . . .


Time to go. I didn’t want to miss the first bell anyway. My homeroom teacher, Mr. Hill, was a stickler for punctuality. Plus I still hoped that Ashley would show up today. She had vanished into thin air. Maybe she would just reappear the same way.

I met Ashley three weeks ago at high school orientation for both new kids (Ashley and me, for example) and incoming freshmen, all of whom already knew one another because they went to middle school and elementary school together. No one ever seems to leave this town.

An orientation should consist of visiting your classes, getting a tour of the facilities, and maybe meeting a few classmates. But no, that’s not enough. We had to participate in these moronic, dehumanizing, and totally awkward “team building” exercises.

The first involved the “trust fall.” Ms. Owens, a PE teacher with a smile that looked like it’d been painted on by a drunk clown, started off by trying to fire us up.

“Good morning, everyone!”

A few groans.

Then—and I hate when adults do this—she shouted, “I know you’re more excited than that, so let’s try it again! Good morning, everyone!”

The students yelled “Good morning” louder this time, not because they were excited but because they wanted her to stop.

We were broken down into groups of six—mine featured three incoming freshmen and three upperclassmen who had just moved to town.

“One of you will stand on this pedestal and wear a blindfold!” Ms. Owens exclaimed. Everything she said ended in an exclamation mark. “You will cross your arms and now I want you to pretend that the pedestal is on fire! Oh no!” Ms. Owens put her hands on her cheeks like the kid in Home Alone. “It’s so hot that you’ll have to fall back!”

Someone raised his hand. “Why would we keep our arms crossed if the pedestal was on fire?”

Murmurs of agreement.

Ms. Owens’s painted-on smile didn’t change, but I thought I noticed a twitch in her right eye. “Your arms are tied!”

“They are? No, they’re not.”


“But if we pretend that, why do we need the blindfold? Can’t we just pretend not to see?”

“Or close our eyes?”

Ms. Owens fought for control. “The pedestal is so hot from the fire that you fall backward off of it.”


“Wouldn’t we jump, Ms. Owens?”

“Really. Why would we fall backward? I mean, if it’s that hot.”

Ms. Owens had enough. “Because I say so! You will fall backward! The rest of the group will catch you! Then you’ll switch places until everyone has a turn falling backward!”

We all did this, though some of us were hesitant. I’m six-four and weigh two hundred pounds. The group winced when they saw me. Another girl in my group, an incoming freshman dressed all in black, was on the fat side. I know I should call her something other than fat, something more politically correct, but I’m not sure what without sounding condescending. Large? Chubby? Heavy? I say those without judgment, the same way I might say small, bony, or skinny.

The big girl hesitated before she climbed onto the pedestal. Someone in our group laughed. Then someone else.

Other than to show this girl that cruelty will not stop when you enter high school, I had no idea how this exercise was supposed to help anyone.

When the girl didn’t fall back right away, one of the freshman boys snickered and said, “C’mon, Ema. We’ll catch you.”

It was not a voice that gave her confidence. She pulled down her blindfold and looked back at us. I met her eye and nodded. Finally she let herself fall. We caught her—some adding dramatic grunts—but Ema didn’t look any more trusting.

We then played some dumb paintball game where two people got hurt and then we moved into an exercise called—I wish I were kidding—“Poisoned Peanut Butter.” For this event, you had to cross over a ten-yard patch of Poisoned Peanut Butter but, as Ms. Owens explained, “Only two of you can wear the Anti-Poison shoes to get across at a time!”

In short, you had to carry other team members on your back. The small girls laughed with a tee-hee as they were carried. A photographer with the Star-Ledger newspaper was there, snapping away. The reporter asked a glowing Ms. Owens questions, her answers filled with words like bonding, welcoming, trusting. I couldn’t imagine what sort of story you’d do on something like this, but maybe they were desperate for “human interest” material.

I stood in the back of the Poisoned Peanut Butter line with Ema. Black mascara was running down her face with what might have been silent tears. I wondered if the photographer would get that.

As it came closer to Ema’s turn for teammates to carry her across the Poisoned Peanut Butter, I could actually feel her start to shake in fear.

Think about it.

It’s your first day at a new school and you’re a girl who weighs probably two hundred pounds and you’re forced to put on gym shorts and then, to complete some inane group task, your new smaller classmates have to lug you like a beer keg for ten yards while you just want to curl up in a ball and die.

Who thinks this is a good idea?

Ms. Owens came over to our team. “Ready, Emma?!”

Ema (with a long e) or Emma. I didn’t know what her name was now.

Emma/Ema said nothing.

“You go, girl! Right across the Poisoned Peanut Butter! You can do it!”

Then I said, “Ms. Owens?”

She turned her gaze on me. The smile never changed, but the eyes narrowed slightly. “And you are?”

“My name is Mickey Bolitar. I’m an incoming sophomore. And I’m going to sit out this exercise, if it’s okay.”

Again the flutter in Ms. Owens’s right eye. “Excuse me?”

“Yeah, I don’t really think I’m up for being carried.”

The other kids looked at me like I had a third arm growing out of my forehead.

“Mr. Bolitar, you’re new here.” The exclamation point was gone from Ms. Owens’s voice. “I would think you’d want to participate.”

“Is it mandatory?” I asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Is participating in this particular exercise mandatory?”

“Well, no, it’s not manda—”

“Then I’m sitting out.” I looked over at Ema/Emma. “Would you mind keeping me company?”

We walked away then. Behind me I could hear the world go silent. Then Ms. Owens blew a whistle, stopping the exercise and calling for lunch.

When we were a few more feet away, Ema/Emma said, “Wow.”


She looked me straight in the eye. “You saved the fat girl. I bet you’re really proud of yourself.”

Then she shook her head and walked away.

I looked behind me. Ms. Owens watched us. She still had the smile, but the glare in her eyes made it clear that I’d managed to make an enemy my first day.

The sun beat down upon me. I let it. I closed my eyes for a moment. I thought about my mother, who was coming home from rehab soon. I thought about my father, who was dead and buried.

I felt very much alone.

The school cafeteria was closed—school opening was still weeks away—so we all had to bring our own. I bought a buffalo chicken sub at Wilkes Deli and sat by myself on a grassy hill overlooking the football field. I was about to bite into it when I noticed her.

She wasn’t my type, though I really don’t have a type. I’ve spent my entire life traveling overseas. My parents worked for a charitable foundation in places like Laos and Peru and Sierra Leone. I don’t have any siblings. It was exciting and fun when I was a kid, but it got tiresome and difficult as I grew older. I wanted to stay in one place. I wanted to make some friends and play on one basketball team and, well, meet girls and do teenage stuff. It’s hard to do that when you’re backpacking in Nepal.

This girl was very pretty, sure, but she was also prim and proper and preppy. Something about her looked stuck-up, though I couldn’t say what. Her hair was the pale blond of a porcelain doll. She wore an actual, well, skirt, not one of those short-short ones, and what might have been bobby socks, and looked as though she’d just walked out of my grandparents’ Brooks Brothers catalog.

I took a bite of my sandwich and then I noticed that she didn’t have a lunch. Maybe she was on some kind of weird diet, but for some reason I didn’t think so.

I don’t know why, but I decided to walk over to her. I wasn’t much in the mood to talk or to meet anyone. I was still reeling from all the new people in my life and really didn’t want to add any more.

Maybe it was just because she was so pretty. Maybe I’m just as shallow as the next guy. Or maybe it was because the lonely can sometimes sense the lonely. Maybe what drew me to her was the fact that, like me, she seemed to want to keep to herself.

I approached tentatively. When I got close enough, I gave a half wave and said, “Hi.”

I always open with super-smooth lines like this.

She looked up at me and shaded eyes the green of emeralds. “Hi.”

Yep, very pretty.

I stood there, feeling awkward. My face reddened. My hands suddenly felt too big for my body. The second thing I said to her was, “My name is Mickey.”

Man, am I smooth or what? Every line is killer.

“I’m Ashley Kent.”

“Cool,” I said.


Somewhere in this world—in China or India or a remote section of Africa—there was probably a bigger dork than me. But I couldn’t swear to that.

I pointed at her empty lap. “Did you bring lunch?”

“No, I forgot.”

“This sandwich is huge,” I said. “Do you want half?”

“Oh, I couldn’t.”

But I insisted and then she invited me to join her. Ashley was also a sophomore and also new in town. Her father, she said, was a renowned surgeon. Her mother was a lawyer.

If life were a movie, this was the part where you’d start the music montage. Some sappy song would be playing while they flashed to Ashley and me sharing lunch, talking, laughing, looking coy, holding hands—and ending with that first chaste kiss.

That was three weeks ago.

I made it into Mr. Hill’s class just as the bell sounded. He took roll call. The bell pealed again, and it was time for first period. Ashley’s homeroom was across the hall. I waited and saw that yet again she wasn’t here.

I described Ashley before as my girlfriend. That might have been an exaggeration. We were taking it slow, I guess. We’d kissed twice—no more. I didn’t really like anyone else at my new school. I liked her. It wasn’t love. But it was also early. On the other hand, feelings like this usually diminish. That’s the truth. We like to pretend that they grow as we get closer to our new partner. But most times, it’s the opposite. We guys see that gorgeous girl and we get this big-time crush, one that makes it hard to breathe and makes us so anxious, want it so bad, that we always blow it.

If we do somehow land her, the feelings begin to diminish almost immediately. In this case, my feelings for Ashley really did grow. That was a little scary in a good way.

Then one day I came to school and Ashley was absent. I tried her cell phone, but there was no answer. She was gone the next day too. Then the next. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t have her home address. I checked the name Kent online, but they must have been unlisted. In fact, there was nothing about her online at all.

Ashley had simply vanished into thin air.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Shelter 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 184 reviews.
theReader278 More than 1 year ago
Shelter is published as a teen novel, but I thought it was a pretty good adult read and I am glad I gave this a try. The writing is good, action moves right along. will definitely buy more.
Travel_Girl More than 1 year ago
I read all of Harlan Coben's novels and he is my favorite author. Never before has a book prompted me to write one of these reviews! My teen, who isn't that fond of reading, could not book this book down. The adults in my family read it also, and we hope that Mr. Coben writes more Mickey Bolitar books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So I just got this book and the first sentence got me hooked because I love these types of books!!! I would definately recommend this book!
BookSakeBlogspot More than 1 year ago
I don't read a ton of adult mysteries but when I find a young adult one I'm eager to jump. Knowing that Shelter was written by a master mystery writer it made it all the more enticing. Shelter opens up right into the mystery and the questions never stop coming. Immediately I was wondering what happened to Ashley and how these things were all connected. This teen, Mickey Bolitar, is definitely going places he shouldn't go, all to figure out where this girl has disappeared to. Then you throw in the neighborhood's scary resident - the bat lady - and immediately I am reminded of the house that we would all run past when we were kids. Mickey's friends Spoon and Ema are the most entertaining characters in the book - sidekicks, yes, but they get some of the best lines in the bunch. Spoon is just completely random and Ema is a smart-ass, bad-ass, emo/goth kinda chick that doesn't screw around. What didn't sell me on the book was that too much of the mystery was left open at the end, that this kid Mickey had strong enough feelings for Ashley after only a few weeks together, and how some of the other people came to be involved within the story. It was a stretch. Shelter was a crazy quick read for me, it just kept moving and moving, and there is no lack of action in the story. I only wish that it would have felt more realistic in combining all of the different elements of the story and that there would have been a few more answers at the end. Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake
JamesterCK More than 1 year ago
I am a HUGE fan of Harlan Coben's books (I've read all of them!) and when I heard he was coming out with a new YA series, I just had to check it out. It definitely did not disappoint. I loved the character of Mickey Bolitar. He certainly seemed wise beyond his years. His girlfriend, Ashley, is missing from the beginning, although there is a small flashback to when Mickey and Ashley met. On top of that, the woman nicknamed the "Bat Lady" cryptically tells him his father isn't dead, which heightens the mystery and suspense. I think I liked Mickey so much because he didn't care what anyone else thought of him. He was confident enough to be his own person and not let people push him around; this included befriending Ema and Spoon, two of the least popular kids in his new school. I loved how Spoon was always spouting random quirky facts. I also really loved his friend Ema. It took her while to warm up to him, since she was so used to being made fun of and didn't exactly trust anyone. She turned out to be an extremely witty character, and a very loyal friend to Mickey. There is definitely something wrong with Ema's home life, but the book never went into detail about it and she never allowed Mickey to see her home. I'm really hoping the next book will give us an insight into her life. Being a fan of Coben's other books, I was very pleased to be reunited with my old friend Myron (Mickey's uncle, with whom he doesn't get along very well). It wasn't the Myron I'm used to seeing though; since Mickey's dad died and his mom ended up in rehab, Myron ends up standing in as his guardian and stand-in parental figure, so his responsiblities are different in this book. For other fans of the Myron Bolitar series, Esperanza is mentioned once, but only in passing. I was extremely disappointed that Win wasn't in this one at all; he is my absolute favorite character and was hoping to see him make an appearance in some aspect. It would be great if he shows up later on in the series *hint, hint*. Honestly though, this book is all about Mickey and it makes sense for the other characters not to be in this book, because they're not a part of his world (at least not yet). I loved trying to figure out all of the mysteries throughout this book and I didn't put it down once once I started reading. There was suspense galore and it definitely made it easy to want to keep reading. This book will keep you guessing until the end and make you excited to see what else is in store for these characters. I think everyone will able to connect with and cheer on Mickey in his journey to find Ashley and to discover the truth about his father.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so hard to put down i finished it in half a day.This was so worth buying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldnt put it down and i read it in a day. I reccomend it and i truly hope there will be a second book. Love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this book would be enjoyed by a young reader who enjoys mysteries. As an adult who has read Coben's books I kept expecting Myron & pals to come to the rescue but it's all Mickey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love how it ended. I can not wait for the next book in the series. I will be looking for it in the shop area every day and i will be saving my money for it. i liked how spoon was involved in finding Ashley .this book has lots of clif hanger so sometimes i could not put the book down at all and i liked that .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for a class thing and i think this is one if the best books i have ever read!!! It makes you want to keep reading it!! I really hope Harlan Coben writes more of Mickey's series!!!! YOLO
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it! You can (but don't have to) read the Myton Bolitar series before. This is a amazingtastic book with a surprise ending that i couldn't put down. It was even better th the myron bolitars. Anywayz, <3'ed it!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shelter rocks! Not only is it interesting, it's actually really funny. Also it's amazing! Cant stress tha enough...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to read the next in the series! I was bummed to see the book was so short, but great will not be disappointed with this purchase.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was phenomenal. One of the best books yet. Harlan never fails to dissapoint.
PersimmonWarwick More than 1 year ago
WOWW!! I can"t put into words how AWESOME and intriguing this book is. What a way to end it!! CANNOT WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE!!!
bookloverNR More than 1 year ago
i loved this book it was amazing every page is a surprise this book wont let u down!!
mac6397 More than 1 year ago
Amazing book! Once i picked up, i couldn't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. I like the way it keeps you into it by giving you a mystery then out of nowhere something happens and someone goes missing or worse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hated to put it down
Melissa Bush More than 1 year ago
I was iffy in weather or not to read it book but it is a Great book, one that I will recomend highly. A must read.
TheReaderSophia More than 1 year ago
i didn't know if i wanted to read this book but boy am i glad that i did1!!!! This was a superb book!!! A must read!
Natalie Sorrell More than 1 year ago
Excellent. Could not put it down. Excellent story, great characters. Hope Coben writes another Mickey Bolitar book very soon. I wish the book were longer!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book, but absolutely despise plot spoilers who reveal every detail of the story then brag how they got their book for free for their 'honest'review. Really? Like we really believe that? Then we have these children playing on the review site using the nook as a chat room, or a roleplaying site. Come on bn, cant you put a stop to these kids playing around on here? We come here for book reviews, not to have to go thru a bunch of kids chatting, sexting and roleplaying their dumb cat games.
ALISHA GIFFORD More than 1 year ago
Another wonderful book by Harlan Coben, you will fall in love with Mickey Bolitar and his friends!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shelter, described as a young adult book, is perfect for readers of all ages. Sure the characters are high schoolers, but weren't we all at some point? The story line is great; with all sorts of twists and turns that makes it seriously difficult to put the book down. You should definitely check out this book and after that... all of Coben's other works. You won't regret it!