This book is a blue puzzle pice of emotional genius. I am affected. I AM VERY AFFECTED. At first I felt like I was sliding headfirst and upside down a water slide of skittles. The prose was…woah. Like Alice in Wonderland but IT MADE LESS SENSE THAN THAT. I won’t lie! I panicked! But come on! IT’S NEAL SHUSTERMAN. I trust him. And ohhh, it paid off. This is the kind of story that gets lodged in your throat until you either shout or wail about its marvellousness.
I WILL SHOUT.
It’s about living with mental illness. I’ve read books about schizophrenia before, but Challenger Deep is pretty much incomparable. The protagonist, Caden, is hospitalised for most of the book, but we spend so much time in his delusions. Probably more in his delusions than in “real life”. I did appreciate that the book was NOT about labels and boxes. So often I think diagnosis don’t fit in-real-life like they do in books…so this made the book even more real. It took me on a very real roller coaster ride through medication and therapy and the pits of despair and recovery and how mental illness is something you manage, not cure. There is no and-then-boy-met-girl-and-all-his-troubles-ceased! No. THANK GOODNESS. Challenger Deep wins the world.
This is a very personal book too, and you can totally feel that while reading. You HAVE to read the author’s note. He quotes that 1 in 3 people suffer from mental illness, and most of the experiences in this book come from his own personal family life, particularly his son. (His son did the artwork for the book, pictured above.) Imagine putting so MUCH of yourself and your family in a book?!! It’s incredibly brave. And I think it makes a huge difference. I just felt so connected to the book the whole time. It’s literally extraordinary.
Okay, but just so you know before you go in: half the book is imaginary and half is actual life. I confess! I was more interested in the actual real life parts. But I assume, often, it was a parallel. I personally didn’t always make the connections but sometimes I DID. I also love how, subtly, towards the end, the imaginary chapters were leaking into the real-life ones. It was so seamless and sort of terrifying. I had a rocky start with the beginning because NOTHING made sense. But either I got used to it, or it smoothed out, but either way, the writing is flawless. It’s delusional. It explains and makes you experience the fear and horror of being caught in delusions and knowing it’s not real, but having to believe it anyway.
Also, Caden’s family just are great. While Caden’s losing himself in the delusions, they’re there for him. CAN I JUST SAY, THANK YOU? It’s so uplifting and hopeful.
So basically? I LOVE THIS STORY. It’s scary and sad and real and confusing — which sums up what it’s like to be mentally ill. It has incredible parallels and the writing is just everything. It explains Caden’s point-of-view with such detail that I really think anyone would empathises with his condition. I’m pretty sure that’s my heart drowning in a puddle over there. S’OKAY. I’M OKAY. This is easily an extraordinary book.
HOLD ME, I’M HAVING AN EMOTION.
Thank you HarperCollins for the ARC! Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman was published April, 2015.
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.