Maggie Leigh is living with her extremely religious and wheelchair ridden mother in World War II period London when the Germans drop the bombs on the city that seriously injure her aunt, Maggie's only respite from her mother's strict and controlled parenting. Now paranoid, Maggie's mother sends her to a Catholic school for girls in Wales to keep her safe; physically from the German bombs, and spiritually from her "heathen" aunt. But the school is far from what Maggie expects: girls from all over the country are crowded like livestock in the school, the nuns are extremely strict and rigid, and the Mother Superior is not only frightening, but mad. Then a dangerous discover on the beach near the school sets off a chain of events that send Maggie on a harrowing, dangerous journey that will test her to her limits.
Shelter Me provides an intriguing and riveting plotline—McAulay is skilled at capturing a sense of danger and adventure that entertains and causes plenty of apprehension. Readers may be put off by the slightly shaky and standard writing in the first chapter, but it quickly evens out and provides plenty of excitement and action to keep the reader enthralled.
The school Maggie is sent to is uniquely portrayed, and the nuns will give the reader chills. It is here that the story begins to pick up as Maggie makes some new friends, and the terrifying scene at the beach sets the girls' plans for escape into motion. A series of last minute discoveries and near misses will keep readers on the edges of their seats as the girls are thrown from one dilemma directly into another. All the while, Maggie's fear and uncertainty are palpable, and her innocence very apparent, making for a more realistic and heart pounding novel. Also notable is how McAulay adresses the difference between the social classes and how the war effects each and the clashes between them. Readers may be surprised at how neatly the ending wraps up, but will be completely and wholly satisfied nonetheless. Despite the modern terms and lack of more historical details, Shelter Me is an action filled and adventurous story that is sure to especially appeal to reluctant readers. Alex McAulay knows how to entertain and keep readers hanging in suspense.