Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Challenger Deep

Challenger DeepAuthor: Neal Shusterman
Series: Standalone
Released: April 21st 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 320 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

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.

This is the third gorgeously written book with positive representation of mental illness I’ve read this month. Third! It looks like YA is finally going there, endeavoring to explore the unexplorable. Neal Shusterman’s new book, Challenger Deep, is the latest and brightest attempt to shed some light onto the struggles of people with mental disorders.

Challenger Deep is a magical book – smart and funny, intelligent and poignant, frightening and thought provoking – all at once. The mood changes with each extremely brief chapter, and the rapid changes serve not only to manipulate our mood, but also to truly impress upon us that we’ve entered a scattered mind. This time, Shusterman writes from experience; his own son struggled with mental illness and the illustrations included in his book are Brendan’s from those times.

I suppose if you don’t know what to expect, Challenger Deep can be a bit tricky at first. Some chapters are accessible and realistic, and then there are those that are completely detached from reality. To add to that, the unrealistic chapters are deeply allegorical, and although it quickly becomes clear what they represent, getting to that point can be a bit trying. But everything you have to go through to fully experience this book is more than worth it. While it can be challenging at times, it’s also extremely rewarding.

The story has no less than three layers: the more or less healthy family life from Caden’s memories, the rapid deterioration of his sanity, and finally his life on the ship, an obvious metaphor and a sign of sanity lost. The whole decline is simply heartbreaking, but Shusterman still manages to make it all run smoothly.

Understanding mental illness and stopping discrimination against people who struggle with it is the next important step this society needs to take. Each decade has its own civil rights fight, and I truly hope we tackle this next. Books like Challenger Deep are extremely important in that regard and as someone whose family battled those same issues, I thank Neal and Brendan Shusterman from the bottom of my heart.

Every YA reader out there knows Neal Shusterman’s name, and if they don’t, I can honestly say they should. This is an author who constantly pushes the limits, who turns YA into something new and entirely unexpected each time. He should be celebrated far and wide and his work, more specifically this book, should get the accolades it deserves.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. Replies
    1. That's sort of the point since even the blurb reflects Caiden's state of mind brilliantly.

  2. I haven't been a fan of this author's Unwind series but I'm completely willing to give him a shot with a completely different genre. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this and found it such a compelling read, Maja--I'm looking forward to picking it up. Lovely review, dear!

  3. Like Keertana I'm not a fan of the Unwind series but the Antsy series by Shusterman are amazing. I honestly think this one sounds amazing. Sad but amazing.

  4. I love that the YA genre is doing more of this and I love even more that this is the third book you have read! Yay! Wonderful review Maja. I think I need to add this to my TBR pile. ;)

  5. Need to add to my TBR because I love well done mental health books

  6. I also didn't click with Unwind, so I didn't download this one, but now you are making me regret that a little. I'm happy that there are books that are looking at mental illness in a way that's respectful and empathetic. Great review!
    Jen at YA Romantics

  7. I know Rashika loved this one as much as you did, Maja, so I'm going to have to be on the look out for this. The blurb certainly intrigued me and you mentioning that this book handles mental illness well, makes me want to jump right away into it. I've never read a Schusterman book, but I'm guessing that needs to change soon.
    Wonderful review, Maja. I'm so glad this was such a success for you!

  8. I love his books which are so original and refreshing. I didn't expect anything less with this one. Thanks for the heads up regarding the detached sections. Now I know what to expect from them as well as how to approach them. Lovely review, Maja!

  9. Ooo, I like the sound of this one, Maja. The blurb was pretty confusing, but I thought you did a great job of explaining the premise of this one and making me want to read it. I really like that the illustrations have been done by Neal's son.

  10. It sounds like a really beautiful book. I confess that I don't read a lot of mental illness book,not that it's not interesting because it really is, but it tends to make me sad... But I think I would love to discover this one. Thanks for the review!

  11. I love Neal Shusterman and this is already on my list. I have a deep appreciation for writers who tackle sensitive issues and especially for those that do it well. I'm very excited about this one. Great review :)

  12. I really must get a copy of this one. I have read so many excellent reviews fo this one, and your review seals the deal. As a psychology major, I am fascinated by mental illness, so I know this is a must read for me.

  13. I haven't read any of his books yet. I know that's awful. I think books about mental illness (especially YA) are very important. I actually know who I need to get this book for. It's the perfect gift for her so maybe I'll get it and try to read it first.

  14. Such high praise for a beautifully written book! I'm so happy to see that there are more books out in the YA category that talk about mental illnesses in a realistic way. It's so important to make others understand how it really is, to give them an idea how someone with such an illness can be, because many materials about them today do not give it justice. Lovely review, Maja!

    Faye at The Social Potato

  15. I just wasn't sure about this book so I didn't request it...but I might have to check it out. Mental illness is such a difficult topic to cover well in books because, well, it's a difficult topic IRL, too. But necessary to talk about!

  16. Ok, another book added to the wish list, the GR TBR pile and probably buying it sooner than later and not waiting for the book buying ban to be lifter... Why Maja, why? This sounds like an amazing and truly important book, and I would have discounted it right away if not for your review! So thank you (even if my wallet weeps).

  17. Oh, I'm really excited about this one. I heard Shusterman talk about this at NCTE and again with his son at ALAN this year, and it's made me really deeply glad this book exists. I've actually been pretty disappointed in a lot of the YA I've read this year that deals with mental health issues - do you have any suggestions? (I want to know what I'm missing out on!)

    Love Shusterman's writing - and I can tell from the summary and from your review that I'm going to love this one a lot.


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