Leo Park has been held at the Facility since he was six years old. He is an empath, and so is his baby brother, and the two can communicate with one another through their shared ability to sense feelings and emotions. It was bad enough that the scientists have been using Leo and experimenting on him for years, but now that Jae is around, Leo is determined to keep his brother out of their hands. When an opportunity to escape presents itself, Leo doesn’t hesitate to run for it along with Jae.
The real world is nothing like Leo expected from movies, and he realizes he has no idea what to do or how to survive on the run. He has no money and no transportation, and he knows the director will be looking for him. When Leo encounters Cole Millard in the woods, the man is willing to help Leo and Jae, at least for a little while. Cole lives totally off the grid in a small cabin with no power or technology. At first Leo tries his best to keep his escape a secret, but the director has a massive search going for Leo and it is impossible to hide his abilities and his escape from Cole.
At first Cole has no idea what to make of Leo’s story, but his instincts, along with his distrust for the corrupt government that controls all the media, make him at least consider that what Leo is telling them is the truth. Plus, Cole really likes Leo and cares what happens to him and Jae. When the search circles ever closer, the three take off looking for safety. But living on the run is almost impossible as the search broadens. And even figuring out a place to go is difficult. A war is coming and it is hard to find any place that is safe, especially being the subjects of a manhunt. But Cole and Leo have grown to care about one another, and both are determined to protect Jae and to find a way to be together in safety.
Shelter Me is the first book in Megan Reddaway’s Heven series and I thoroughly enjoyed this dystopian romance. The set up captivated me right away, and the story kept my attention from start to finish, especially the climactic ending. We follow first Leo, then he and Cole as they frantically try to find their way to freedom while the Facility hunts them down, determined to get Leo and Jae back. As the search closes in, the book’s pace picks up even further and I found myself frantically reading to make sure these guys made their way to safety.
I really enjoyed Cole and Leo together. Leo is determined to protect Jae at any cost, and he is a fighter, but at the same time it is clear Leo is in way over his head. He has lived at the Facility for 13 years and has no idea how the world works beyond what he has seen in old movies. So as much as Leo is trying to make his own way, he desperately needs help, and fortunately Cole is there to provide it. For his part, Cole models his life on Thoreau and Walden, living a basic life alone in the woods. He is a man used to surviving and fending for himself, and he is a capable guy, but having a young, hot empath and his infant brother suddenly descend on his life is not easy. The bond builds between these men quickly, though things don’t get physical too fast (which makes sense given the dire situation they are in). But I could really feel the growing connection between them and found these guys really good together.
There are some aspects of this story that did need more exploration, however. The book takes place in the near future, but after some major political upheaval. The United States and Canada are no more, but we never learn just what exactly happened. We also learn they are on the brink of a world war, that danger is coming from the south, but again we get no information at all as to the nature of the war, who is fighting, what they seek to accomplish, etc. It is just kept as this vague, but very imminent threat without every giving any explanation as to what is going on beyond some basics. This is the first book in the series, so perhaps more is to come. But this left me with a pretty big hole I would have liked to see filled. I also would have liked more on Cole’s background to give us a sense of how he ended up living this remote life. It sounds like his childhood was fairly normal, but he certainly now lives a very atypical lifestyle and it would have been nice to get a better sense of what drove him to it.
These issues aside, I really enjoyed this book and I found it very engaging. It kept my attention from start to finish and I am left eager to see where Reddaway takes things in future installments. So I am happy I gave this one a shot and am really looking forward to more.