Published by HarperCollins on April 21st 2015
Genres: Boys & Men, Contemporary, Depression & Mental Illness, Social Issues, Special Needs, Young Adult
A captivating novel about mental illness that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman. Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior. Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence to document the journey with images. Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head. Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. Caden Bosch is torn. Challenger Deep is a deeply powerful and personal novel from one of today's most admired writers for teens. Laurie Halse Anderson, award-winning author of Speak, calls Challenger Deep "a brilliant journey across the dark sea of the mind; frightening, sensitive, and powerful. Simply extraordinary."
**Thank you, Heather Doss, for this ARC! This in no way affected my honest review of the book.
Challenger Deep is unlike any book I’ve read before about mental illness. Granted, I haven’t read many young adult novels about this topic, but of the books I’ve read in the recent past, this one stands out as being unique. If I had to describe this book in one word while I was reading it, it would probably be “weird.” The style is totally different than what I normally read. At times I was confused, and it took me a long time to read a book that really wasn’t that long. For some reason, I just had a hard time picking the book back up and finishing it.
Challenger Deep is a place—it’s the lowest point on Earth, at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. In one “reality” of the book, the MC (Caden) is on a ship, traveling to that point—Challenger Deep. The story revolves around Caden making that journey—and it’s the symbolic nature of that journey that is important to the overall plot.
I think you need to pay attention when you read this book, as it switches between the MC’s real world and the world of the ship. In this way, it has a touch of magical realism, but sometimes I had to go back and see what “world” I was in. At the beginning I was definitely confused, but when considering that the book is meant to give us a deeper perspective into the life of a character who is struggling with mental illness, well, it seems that a little confusion is understandable.
The chapters are short and titled and this choice I think reflects something about the thought patterns of the MC. At least that’s one way to interpret the narrative structure.
Who Should Read This Book:
Shusterman’s new book from Harper Collins is an important story—it illuminates a very real issue in the lives of teens—that of mental illness. The creative way the author does this (along with his son’s art) makes the content and themes even more meaningful. The glimpses of the MC on the ship give the reader a special perspective on what it’s like to live with mental illness.
Librarians and teachers especially should be aware of this title as they can recommend it to readers looking for fiction about the topic.
The Final Illumination:
I think I’m in the minority here because quite a few readers seemed to really enjoy this book—or at least, it worked for them. I’m disappointed that this one just didn’t work for me, though I love Shusterman’s work and think he’s a fabulous writer. I do appreciate the way the author represented mental illness, but it took me so long to finish the book and get into it. I had high expectations for this book, but as it turned out, it’s not a favorite.