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Harlan Coben's Shelter review: Teen thriller has heart but gets lost in its twists

The show premieres on Prime Video today

Abby Corrigan (Ema Winslow), Jaden Michael (Mickey Bolitar), Adrian Greensmith (Arthur
Abby Corrigan (Ema Winslow), Jaden Michael (Mickey Bolitar), Adrian Greensmith (Arthur "Spoon" Spindell) in Harlan Coben's Shelter (Prime Video)
  • 📺 Where to watch Harlan Coben's Shelter: Premieres on Prime Video from 18 August with its first three episodes, then released weekly thereafter.

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 3/5

  • 🍿 Watch it if you liked: The Goonies, Riverdale. Stranger Things

  • 🎭 Who's in it?: Jaden Michael, Adrian Greensmith, Abby Corrigan, Samantha Bugliaro

  • How long is it? 8 episodes, approximately an hour each

  • 📖 What’s it about? After surviving a car crash that killed his father, teen Mickey is taken in by his aunt and joins a new school where he meets fellow newbie Ashley. When the teen goes missing shortly after, Mickey and a few others decide to investigate.

Harlan Coben's bestselling novels have been coming to the small screen for some time now on Netflix, but the author's young adult book series focused on Mickey Bolitar (Jaden Michael) has found a different home on Prime Video.

The show begins with Mickey and his family being involved in a terrifying car crash, and the teen believes that he watched his father die after he was taken away by a mysterious, scarred stranger.

Read more: Red, White and Royal Blue review: LGBTQ+ rom-com is easy viewing

With his mother in a clinic for depression, Mickey moves in with his aunt in Kasselton, New Jersey, where he joins a new school and meets Ashley (Samantha Bugliaro).

Jaden Michael (Mickey Bolitar), Samantha Bugliaro (Ashley) in Harlan Coben's Shelter (Prime Video)
Jaden Michael (Mickey Bolitar), Samantha Bugliaro (Ashley) in Harlan Coben's Shelter (Prime Video)

The pair hit it off straight away, so when Ashley goes missing Mickey is determined to investigate and his new friends, and fellow outcasts, Spoon (Adrian Greensmith) and Ema (Abby Corrigan) are also on the case but it seems their small town is hiding quite a few secrets.

Shelter has an intriguing mystery at its centre, there's clearly more to Ashley's disappearance because the town is full of shady figures.

Even Mickey's history teacher spends her free time looking at stories about a young boy who went missing just like Ashley, while a mysterious figure known as the Bat Lady tells Mickey she knows his father is alive.

Jaden Michael (Mickey Bolitar), Adrian Greensmith (Arthur
Jaden Michael (Mickey Bolitar), Adrian Greensmith (Arthur "Spoon" Spindell) in Harlan Coben's Shelter (Prime Video)

Shelter, being a show aimed at teens, does have similar vibes to classics like The Goonies, it is charming in its own way with Michael giving a heartfelt performance as the grieving Mickey.

Read more: Michelle Keegan to star in new Harlan Coben Netflix adaptation 

Meanwhile, Greensmith gives a delightfully funny performance as genius hacker Spoon, while Corrigan's Ema feels like she's doing her best Winona Ryder impression which makes the show feel even more like an '80s movie.

It's not quite an homage to the era like Stranger Things, but it has a similar appeal.

Adrian Greensmith, Jaden Michael and Abby Corrigan in Shelter (Prime Video)
Adrian Greensmith, Jaden Michael and Abby Corrigan in Harlan Coben's Shelter (Prime Video)

The thriller is full of twists and turns which will keep viewers on their toes, but the first three episodes already raise so many questions about the true nature of the people around Mickey that sometimes it's hard to keep track.

It's best to just think that everyone is suspicious and leave it at that, but it makes the show more convoluted that it needs to be.

What other critics thought of Harlan Coben's Shelter:

There are elements of the story that also don't work: for example there is an inexplicable subplot centred on the Holocaust that borders on being in poor taste and may well become so if the show isn't careful with how it uses it going forward.

Shelter may feel like its getting lost in its own twisty narrative, but its charming main trio help to help the show feel grounded and interesting enough to keep viewers engaged in the mystery of Kasselton.

The first three episodes of Harlan Coben's Shelter are out now on Prime Video, and the show will continue to air weekly.

Watch the trailer for Harlan Coben's Shelter: