Thank you to Walker Books and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion in anyway.
Book: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
ReRelease Date: August 6th 2020
Tags: Young Adult | Mental Health | Mental Illness | Psych Ward | Schizophrenia | Bipolar Disorder with Schizophrenia
Trigger/Content Warnings: Hospitalized against will | Suicide | Graphic Mentions of attempted Suicide
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 behaviour.
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
Challenger Deep was rereleased on August 6th by Walker Books this year but was originally released back in 2015. It is a captivating read about mental illness completely from the mind of young 15 year old Caden.
So what happens when your universe begins to get off balance, and you don’t have any experience with bringing it back to center. All you can do is fight a losing battle, waiting for those walls to collapse, and your life to become one huge mystery ashtray.
This book is about a mental illness that isn’t easily understood, schizophrenia. It is an illness that most people also have a different view of. So I am glad that books like Challenger Deep exist where it shares various aspects of the illness from the person who has it. All too often do we get the view from people nearby the person and that just does not show well enough how a mental illness like schizophrenia works.
It is not an own voices book however. Shusterman’s friend and his son had schizophrenia as shared at the back word of the book. It does show in little things (the conversation where Caden realizes his parents suffer too for instance) but I didn’t find that jarring.
‘Tis the nature of a liquid horizon to feel no passage of space,’ the captain said. ‘But we will know as we near the trench, because there will be signs and dark portents.’
Challenger Deep shows it all. The delusions, the anxiety, the paranoia, the complete different world that Caden has created for himself. It creates a heavy read. Shusterman manages to weave a chaotic but clear image of what schizophrenia was like for Caden as we slip with him between the reality and his alternate world on the ship. It shows parallels between the alternate world and the reality. It shows his fear, his detachment from reality. Moments of clarity and moments of setback.
Caden is hospitalized throughout it and I love how the books shows the relationships he builds with the other patients, therapists and psychiatrists. No matter how often you share what it is is like, rarely do outsiders get it. It makes sense for a bonding to happen between patients, especially at this age.
It’s not like I can control these feelings. It’s not like I mean these thoughts. They’re just there, like ugly, unwanted birthday gifts that you can’t give back.
I appreciated immensely that the book touched upon how people expect you to take meds and then be ‘better’ and that is not how that works. Or that mental illnesses very often really can’t be cured, are reoccurring and have to be managed. That is realistic world for many of us struggling with our mental health.
I do not have schizophrenia but I do have depression and anxiety and I have struggled with OCD tendencies in the past. I resonated a lot with portions of this and it was also a confronting read in that regard. Yet I will certainly recommend this book to others.