Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Review: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Harper Teen
Publication Date: April 21st, 2015
Pages: 320
Source: ARC from publisher **I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
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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.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today's most admired writers for teens.

It's becoming obvious that 2015 is the year that YA is shedding light onto mental illness. We're finally starting to veer away from the paranormal and dystopian trend. There's of course always been the more powerful YA reads. But it was always like one a year. Now we've got a lot more to choose from that cover mental illness, suicide and LGBT. That's encouraging. Getting more discussion out there, especially with teenagers, is much needed. Even if they or I can't relate to a certain topic, I can definitely empathize and more than likely learn from it. And that's exactly what Challenger Deep achieved. I was able to see how someone like, Caden starts to spiral downward. How his mind is blurring the lines between reality and make believe. This is a hard book to read, but very powerful and one that should be read. Challenger Deep is very unique and vivid in the narrative. Very clever.

It's very clear that this is a very personal novel that Shusterman wrote. So when you get to the acknowledgements and see that he went through this with his son, I knew that this was more than a work of fiction. A fictionalized memoir would be more accurate. Either way Challenger Deep is very encompassing.

We meet Caden as he's starting to feel off. He's becoming anxious, paranoid, manic and overly compulsive. Thoughts go through his mind like what happens if he jumps, will that create a an earthquake in China? Or how he just all the sudden knows the secret to the universe.
"The things I feel cannot be put into words, or if they can, the words are in no language anyone can understand. My emotions are talking in tongues. Joy spins into anger spins into fear then into amused irony, like leaping from a plane, arms wide, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can fly, then discovering you can't, and not only don't you have a parachute, but you don't have any clothes on, and the people below all have binoculars and are laughing as you plummet to a highly embarrassing doom." pg.12
 Caden is also lying to his parents, teachers and friends. I know this is how someone falling sick can get over looked, the person becomes very good at hiding. Luckily Caden's parents are actual parents. They're supportive, involved, diligent and caring. So they are quick to notice the change in Caden's personality and behavior. They may have been scared for him, but they didn't let it show. They knew he needed help. It's really refreshing to see these type of parents in a YA book. Far too many times we see the parents brush off or ignore these type of situations.

There's also chapters where Caden is a crew member on a pirate ship. To begin with you're wondering what is happening. It's a bit confusing. Are we seeing how he falls so far into make believe? No fear, we soon learn that the pirate ship is paralleling Caden's life. It's his brain journeying into the deep. His mind battling to stay in reality is the pirate ship. Shusterman does a wonderful job of conveying how complex an organ the brain is. Caden has clear thoughts about what's happening on this ship. It's the hope that he can over come that line and bring himself back to the sky.

I definitely recommend giving yourself time to read Challenger Deep. It is a book that took me two weeks to read. Not only did I want to give it my undivided attention, but I also had to make time to digest what I was reading. I took something away from Challenger Deep. Learned something powerful. Caden was a great voice to help me empathize and realize just how encompassing the mind can be, even when we know somethings off. Shusterman provided a very real look at mental illness through Caden. I have no doubt that this story will stay with me through the years. I also did something I very rarely do, which is annotate and mark up a book. Not only have I tabbed a lot of passages, I also have notes on a lot of the pages. It was hard not to write down my feelings and thoughts. I had a lot of them.

Happy reading!



  1. This does sound interesting and heartbreaking. Thanks for the heads up about the pirate ship. I have a feeling that would've stopped me cold but it sounds like it gets clarified pretty quickly. I haven't read much about mental illness but I feel like I should. Great review! This is normally a book I would've avoided like the plague - YA, serious topic, strange parallel - but it definitely sounds like it's worth picking up.

  2. I just bought this for my secret sister. I am so glad that you loved it, I will definitely will make sure to give it my full attention when I get time to read it!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  3. Awesome review! I've seen this somewhere before and I had NO IDEA that it had a really deep meaning to it. I'd love to read this real soon and see it for myself as I'm a little curious about it. I feel a little bad for Caden though, and wow it's like a fictional memoir :o Thanks for sharing this! Adding it to my TBR :)


    Jillian @ Jillian's Books

  4. Brilliant review. I am a little nervous to get to this book because I feel it's going to be tough for me to get through, but I feel like it will be worth it. I don't know. I'm not in a rush to read it, not because it doesn't look good but because I feel it might be a book that takes me quite a while to get through too.