Book: Challenger Deep
Author: Neal Shusterman
This is hard book to review. Not just because of the subject matter, which is of course very difficult (the main character has schizophrenia) but because it’s very different to anything I’ve ever read before. This book bears no comparison to the previous books that I’ve read by Neal Shusterman, but it is equally powerful and compelling and deals with an equally difficult subject. Here is a synopsis of the book:
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.
It took me a while to get into this book because the format was a little strange, you flick between Caden’s more lucid moments to moments where he thinks he is on a ship heading for Challenger Deep, the deepest point on earth, in the Marianas trench and that is a little disconcerting but you’re meant to feel disconcerted I think, so in that respect Neal Shusterman did well, it just meant that it took a while for me to grasp what the heck was going on. I think it probably helped that I knew it was about mental illness beforehand as I wasn’t confused as otherwise might have been.
I’m glad that I read this after my A-Levels because I did schizophrenia in my psychology A-Level and before that I didn’t really understand what it was and how scary of an illness it is, so in that respect this book was published at just the right time.
This is not a plot driven book. It’s a very character driven book and usually I wouldn’t like that but it’s so powerfully written, (I mean all the Neal Shusterman books I’ve read have been well written but this took it to another level), that I didn’t really mind that it wasn’t as plot driven as the books I usually read. I know that it comes from a very personal place given that it’s inspired by his son’s mental illness, and you can really tell.
I loved the depiction of mental illness, it was very realistic, there was no sugarcoating, no magic cure but equally it didn’t seem completely hopeless either. Does that make it harrowing? Yes. But I appreciated it, because I want to see want mental illness is really like. I’ve never experienced it and I hope I never will but authors owe it to the people who have to portray it right and Neal Shusterman did an amazing job at that (not that it’s surprising since this story is inspired by his own son’s mental illness).
It’s very hard to get to know Caden outside of his mental illness, because it’s such an all-encompassing part of his life, but I did like that in his lucid moments, we got to see glimpses of this charming, funny, smart guy and you do feel very connected to Caden because the book gives you such an insight into his head. I also loved the parallels between the ship and the hospital as his reality and hallucinations kind of merge together as you can pick out the counterparts between the hospital patients and the crew members.
It was really nice to see Caden’s parents’ supporting him as well, they clearly really cared for him and I loved that!
I loved the illustrations as well, which his son actually did during his illness, they added so much to the book, especially since you can see the deterioration in the drawings.
I liked the way the chapter titles were intergrated into the chapters, they were taken from something a character said or an item or something in that particular chapter and I found it quite fun trying to find where the chapter title appeared in each chapter. I also liked the short chapters because it seemed to mirror the nature of Caden’s thoughts.
There’s really not much else I can say about this book. It’s such a hard book to review because it’s really something you need to read and experience for yourself. It’s a difficult book to read, so to say I enjoyed it seems wrong, but I definitely found it eye opening and I think it’s something everyone should read because it’s such a raw look into someone living with mental illness and yet despite how harrowing it is, there is still hope. Sure the story is kind of open ended and there’s always a probability that Caden could relapse but for me I feel like it ended on a hopeful note and that’s what I took away from the story. That there is always hope that you can emerge from the depths.
My Rating: 4/5
So that’s me all caught up! 3 posts in one day, aren’t you guys lucky? I will have a new Top Ten Tuesday post for you guys on Tuesday and maybe a new discussion post soon so stay tuned for those! My next review will be of The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle.