The Haven follows the story of Ollie Turner as he stumbles across one of the biggest secrets in London.
This book had a super interesting concept at its heart – a secret organisation run by kids and teens that adopts other kids and teens, giving them a home and an education. What an absolutely amazing idea! The premise is brilliantly intriguing and Lelic’s development of this underground society left me thinking ‘could this be real?’ Just kidding. But it is an absorbing concept and Lelic does wonders to bring the reader into this society.
But if there is one thing I’m left with at the end of this book, it’s the action. This plot is all about pace! It opens right in the thick of it, throwing the reader and Ollie right into the chaos that will follow him for the rest of the book (and believe me, things get chaotic).
‘The stakes are built to their absolute peak and everything is on the line.’
Every stage of the novel is pacey, constantly pushing the characters and plot forward. But the ending easily packed the most punch. For the last few chapters, I couldn’t flick the pages fast enough! The stakes are built to their absolute peak and everything is on the line. This is where the book felt like it came into its stride and was strongest. This is no surprise based on Lelic’s successful crime novels but it was enjoyable to see the book really crescendo towards the ending.
Another excellent thing about this book is the wide array of characters. There are characters of varied ages, backgrounds and abilities represented which painted what I felt was a realistic picture of what this underground society would look like – inclusive, accepting and most of all, diverse. None of the characters seemed to be typecast nor was their diversity the focus of their characterisation. They were just real kids working together to look after one another.
Their value for education and skills was also noteworthy, with each of them having some seriously cool talents. If you’re after a book with some kickass role models for kids, this might be the one you’re looking for.
‘None of the characters seemed to be typecast nor was their diversity the focus of their characterisation.’
There are a few other things I loved in this book, but spoilers! I’ll leave it to you to find them.
But alas, the book is not perfect. There were a few things that left me floundering and a little underwhelmed. The opening didn’t quite convey the time period and setting which left me lost while I tried to catch up. The setting was developed but the time period felt vague for the majority of the book.
It is assumed to be in the present however I think the book would have been well-served by strengthening the time and place to ground the reader. It didn’t feel like a reflection of our current time and I would have liked it better if it were set a little further in the future. I think this would have given the author more scope in adding elements that may not directly reflect our current world but foreshadow our potential future society, both the positives and the dangers.
The third person narration was a little jarring in the beginning, with Ollie’s name being repeated in sentences a little too frequently. This narration still felt a little askew throughout the book and I found myself wondering if perhaps I would have enjoyed it more in first person. First person may have strengthened the reader’s connection to Ollie and would have made some of the actions sequences more emotive, rather than just pacey.
‘ A good one to pop into the hands of kids who go for more literal books or for kids who like to skip through the descriptions to get to the action!’
This seems to be happening for me in a few books I’ve read lately, so maybe I’m getting de-sensitised or less scared of bad guys, but I just wasn’t afraid of villain. As a middle-grade book there is obviously limits on how terrifying the villain can be, however I’m finding that these villains I’m coming across seem to be lacking complexity and deeper characterisation. This is how I felt about The Haven’s villain. While her plan was wicked and thrilling, her motives and her characterisation seemed petty, childish and underdeveloped.
If you’re familiar with Oliver Twist, the references are a bit on the nose and some of the twists and turns don’t exactly come as a surprise. But for kids who haven’t read Dickens, this wouldn’t give anything away.
A good one to pop into the hands of kids who go for more literal books or for kids who like to skip through the descriptions to get to the action!
Thanks again to Hachette Australia and Dymocks for sending this one out to me.
Title: The Haven: Book 1
Author: Simon Lelic
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Extent: 304 pp.
Read if you like: The Maze Runner series, The Divergent series, The City of Ember