Challenger Deep – Neal Shusterman

Challenger Deep, wow! I think it’s probably my favorite realistic fiction book. I found it really refreshing and different, and utterly haunting and frightening. I absolutely loved it!

The book is about a 15-year-old boy, Caden, who begins to develop schizophrenia and the lines between reality and fantasy start to blur as he descends into paranoia and the world of created by his mind.

90% of this book I read as an audiobook and this is a book where I actually prefer listening to it over reading. It just made everything feel so much more real. You get the raw emotions and intensity. It frightening because it feels like you’re there, especially when the writing transforms into 2nd person, but I loved it!

The story goes back and forth between his home life as a “normal” teenager and his journey on a ship to Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench. It took me a little while to get used to because the chapters are all rather short and the scenes are a bit disjointed, but I was completely enamored by both story lines. Each time they’d switched I would wish for more. And I really loved trying to find the lines that connect the two.

The cast of characters in this book are so incredibly crafted. Caden, his family, the captain, the parrot, the navigator, Carlyle, Calliope, and everyone else. They’re each so complex and three-dimensional and distinct. I loved it. In the audiobook, most of them have accents, which made me love it even more.

I think what makes this book stand out so much and what makes it so important is the fact that it is based off of real experiences of real people in Shusterman’s life. A friend of his had schizophrenia and also his son has schizophrenia. It does so much to ground the story and makes it so much realer.

Mental illness, itself, I believe, is a very important topic that should be discussed and talked about. Challenger Deep does an incredible job at portraying what a person who is affected by mental illness may experience, and it offers an honest perspective and hopeful message about continuing on.

There are many illustrations in this book, all of which were drawn by his son. They’re all very simple and abstract and hauntingly beautiful, like the rest of the book. Five-stars, I was completely blown away.

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Love, Belinda

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