August 21, 2023

"Shelter" by Harlan Coben on Amazon Prime (2 minute read)

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By Trish Arab

One of my favourite movies, when I was a kid was the cult classic "Goonies," so much so that when I found myself on a road trip along the west coast of Oregon, I had to search for haystack rock and pay homage!

This weekend a new show on Amazon Prime, "Shelter," debuted, and its first episodes bring back all of the warm nostalgic feelings of a 1980s young adult coming-of-age series.

"Shelter" based on American Mystery writer Harlan Coben's young adult novel of the same name, tells the story of Mickey Bolitar (nephew of Coben's original protagonist Myron Bolitar)adjusting to life after his father dies in a car accident, and his mother in hospital with an unknown diagnosis (a quick google search told me in the novel it was drug addiction, but adapted to depression for the series to make it more "palpable" to a larger audience?) living in his father's hometown of Kasseltown, New Jersey with his aunt.  

Without giving too much away, because I do think this show is a must-watch, Mickey finds himself involved in several situations that don't seem to be connected at first; the death of his father, the mental health of his mother, the disappearance of his new girlfriend and an old urban legend involving a missing boy from 40 years earlier, and an old creepy house inhabited by the mythical "bat lady."

Even though this story is filled with typical YA tropes and supernatural undertones that could easily make it boring or expected, Coben puts a fresh spin on it all, with teens that buck the traditional narratives from how they handle typical high school situations to their quick dialogue that stretches beyond what most YA writers can come up with (Coben brought in his daughter Charlotte to make sure the dialogue rang true to teen ears).  Charlotte is "a lot funnier than I am, and she gets younger people better," says Coben, adding it's cool to have her in the writer's room "screaming at each other in a creative way."

If the first three episodes of this eight-part series are any indication, it's clear to say that Amazon Prime has another hit on its hands and, in the streaming wars, has managed to do what its competitors at Netflix haven't when it comes to the work of Harlan Coben - take what works beautifully on the page and translate it equally as well onto the screen.  This is a show worth watching.