Published by HarperCollins on April 1, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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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.
Challenger Deep is not an easy read. But schizophrenia is not an easily understood illness. The book outlines the delusions, anxiety and paranoia which a schizophrenia sufferer experiences, at their worst, and it serves as a confronting and elegant look into a feared and misunderstood mental illness. I’m a big fan of books that tackle mental illness sensitively and realistically, and Challenger Deep had an artistic flair and beauty that hasn’t been replicated anywhere else.
I’m not going to lie, it took me a while to get used to the book. There’s no dallying around, it launches straight into these deep, hard hitting and impactful thoughts separated into several sections. My first impression was that these thoughts seemed to be random and jumbled together, and I wasn’t ready for that. But it soon pulled me into Caden Bosch’s frenetic and thoughtful mind, which was a wondrous, confusing and imaginative place, jumping from the “White Space Kitchen” ie. the hospital, to his place on a ship heading to Challenger Deep, medication, other patients, his parents.
“Everything feels right with the world……and the sad thing is that I know it’s a dream. I know it must soon end, and when it does I will be thrust awake into a place where either I’m broken, or the world is broken.”
Knowing what this book is about from the beginning, would probably ease the jump into the book. It’s rather hard to follow from the start, as it interchanges Caden’s imagination with reality. In Caden’s imagination, the adventure on a ship, interacting with the parrot and the villainous captain could be seen as a rather nonsensical adventure. But once I realised that what was happening in his real life transferred over to his imagination when he regressed into his mind, it became easier to follow for me.
Neal Schusterman’s author note at the end gave me goosebumps. Having experienced a close friend and his own son being diagnosed with schizophrenia, there’s no one else who could have offered such an elegant, heartfelt, thoughtful and accurate description of a patient suffering from the mental illness. It’s a scary place for both the patient and their family which was captured rather accurately here.
“The scariest thing of all is never knowing what you’re suddenly going to believe.”
Most importantly, Challenger Deep raised something that’s often unknown about mental illness – it’s never cured, but you can recover from it. You can move on and live life in normalcy, as long as you leave the medication and the management to the professionals, with the support of your loved ones.
There’s been many mental illness books, such as All the Bright Places which use romance as a recovery tool. But Challenger Deep takes a different tact, focusing on Caden’s recovery and strength within himself. How many YA/NA books have you read, where people only recover because of romance? This one is more realistic, empowering, raw and honestly, hard-hitting and emotional.
Challenger Deep is a powerful, artful and thought provoking novel, about a much misunderstood mental illness. It will confuse you, amaze you, grip you with raw emotion and leave you with a lasting impression. Seeing Caden go through such disturbing depths from his illness is an emotionally exhausting journey, but one that is an incredibly beautiful one. I could read this book again and have a completely different experience; that’s how deep it is.
Rating: 4 out of 5