ARC Review: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger DeepTitle: Challenger Deep
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: April 21st, 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Requested from Edelweiss VIA HarperCollins
Rating: Five Stars
Goodreads Summary:
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.
Cover Thoughts: I really love the cover. The sea is great given the title and I like how the person on the cover is held underwater. It does great to show Caden’s mental illness, how he feels and shows the journey he’ll take in/to Challenger’s Deep.
First Line: 1 Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum
There are two things you know. One: You were there. Two. You couldn’t have been there.
Challenger Deep was such an introspective look at mental illness and schizophrenia in particular. When we meet Caden, we see him living his life day to day seeming fine. Soon though, he begins changing, thinking things that can’t happen, being fearful of people, having extreme paranoia, going for long distances of walks and getting voices in his head. Soon his mind betrays him and his life unravels.
I loved a lot of things about Challenger Deep, but what I loved most is the realization that mental illness doesn’t go away. Just because a person is determined to be mentally ill, it’s not easy to just slap a name on them, label them whatever, give them medication and poof, all better!
No, it’s work, it’s a day to day thing and I loved how Challenger Deep portrayed that. By no means is Caden all better at the end, he’s definitely not. He realizes that he will sink so low again and his mind will get mixed up and he’ll visit Challenger Deep again, but he’s not determined to stay there.
My favorite thing about Challenger Deep was the way Caden was portrayed. We see him as a high school student with friends. We also see him on a ship sailing the sea with the captain, crewmen and a parrot. I loved that the book slowly explored Caden’s mind and his perspective and schizophrenia. The schizophrenia that Caden has isn’t immediately shoved in our faces and I loved that, we don’t know automatically that something is a little off with him.
I thought the way Challenger Deep was written was extremely original. The book alternates between Caden’s day to day life and his life on the ship heading towards Challenger Deep. I definitely knew where things were going when I began reading and it was just a matter of figuring out exactly where everything fit exactly. I’m rather proud of that fact. I loved how reality and fiction were blended together to show how Caden’s mind worked. It helped with understanding his character and what he was going through. It was fascinating seeing his mind work through what was going on in his regular life.
The book takes place in three main places, one, Caden’s regular life, two, his life on the ship and three, well, you’ll just have to figure that one out. 🙂 I’m glad that in a book about mental illness, there isn’t a moral or advisement about going against medication and getting help. I like that we see the repercussions that can happen when a person decides not to take medication. I liked the positive view of medication because it seems a lot of characters fear taking their medicine because it “changes” them. I like how the medication was adjusted a lot, there wasn’t one medication thrown at Caden and then he was fixed. No, it takes a lot of attempts to get him the right medication and the right dosage.
When the title came into place, I was excited to hear about it. I could understand how Caden felt going into the Challenger Deep. I loved seeing Caden’s family in the novel a lot, this was a very parent heavy book, always great to see in Young Adult. I like that his parents weren’t sure what was going on with Caden but were understanding towards him, though a bit afraid as well. I think what really helped Shusterman with the parents is that he’s been through this before. In the author’s note, Shusterman talks about how his son has schizophrenia and they have both been through this. 
Challenger Deep has a lot of chapters, 162 to be exact, the chapters are really short though. I liked seeing parts of Caden’s life in these short chapters rather than long ones. The flashes we see of his life in these short chapters definitely helped show off more of Caden’s character. I loved that each chapter had a title though and seeing how that played into the story.
~Final Thoughts~
Overall, Challenger Deep is such an important mental health read and I could relate to it quite a bit. Caden seemed like a genuine character, one who went through a lot of character growth in my opinion. I rate Challenger Deep five stars. This has been my first book by Neal Shusterman that I’ve read and I’ll be checking out the rest of his as well.
~Memorable Quotes~
  • When the truth hurts, we always hate the messenger.
  • I can’t be sure, but I think we’re eating the crewmen with no brains.
  • Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear, sent it to the woman he loved, and in the end took his own life. I spite of an artistic vision so struttingly new it took years for the world to appreciate it, his artwork couldn’t save him from the depths of his tortured mind. That’s who he was.
  • No matter how bad I’m feeling, I make myself say it, even if I’m not ready to believe it. This, too, shall pass. It’s amazing how little things like that can make a big difference.
  • “He was using words like psychosis and schizophrenic. Words that people feel they have to whisper, or not repeat at all. The Mental-Illness-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.
  • I suppose even a simple slogan can be twisted into whatever shape we want, like a balloon animal–we can even make it loop back around on itself, becoming noose. In the end, the measure of who we are can be seen in the shapes of our balloon animals.

About Amber (YA Indulgences)

Amber is a 20-something woman who enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and taking walks. She has a book blog called YA Indulgences . She is still trying to figure out what she's doing with her life, but she's confident that time will tell. In the meantime she's heading towards the goal of becoming a renowned blogger. View all posts by Amber (YA Indulgences)

10 responses to “ARC Review: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

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