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Challenger Deep (Golden Kite Awards) Hardcover – Illustrated, April 21, 2015
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"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
For the first time in paperback, from Dean Koontz, the master of suspense, comes an epic thriller about a terrifying killer and the singular compassion it will take to defeat him. | Learn more
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From School Library Journal
★ “Haunting, unforgettable, and life-affirming all at once.” (Booklist (starred review))
★ “An adventure in perspective as well as plot, this unusual foray into schizophrenia should leave readers with a deeper understanding of the condition.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
★ “Clearly written with love, the novel is moving; but it’s also funny, with dry, insightful humor. Illustrations by the author’s son Brendan, drawn during his own time in the depths of mental illness, haunt the story with scrambling, rambling lines, tremulousness, and intensity.” (Horn Book (starred review))
★ “Teens, especially fans of the author’s other novels, will enjoy this book. This affecting deep dive into the mind of a schizophrenic will captivate readers, engender empathy for those with mental illnesses, and offer much fodder for discussion.” (School Library Journal (starred review))
★ “A powerful collaboration...[Caden’s] story turns symptoms into lived reality in ways readers won’t easily forget.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“A thoroughly realistic story...Both male and female readers will find this compelling while acquiring a deeper compassion and understanding. ” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))
“Shusterman does a masterful job...The intensity of living inside Caden’s mind makes this a wrenching read.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review))
“Moving, funny, and insightful, Challenger Deep is about a boy named Caden who’s dealing with schizophrenia. Disorienting at times and emotionally poignant at others, this award-winning novel will make you ponder the complexities of mental illness.” (Brightly)
- Lexile Measure : HL800L
- Grade Level : 9 - 12
- Item Weight : 13.8 ounces
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0061134112
- ISBN-13 : 978-0061134111
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.05 x 8.25 inches
- Reading level : 14 and up
- Publisher : Quill Tree Books; Illustrated Edition (April 21, 2015)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #408,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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And they were right. It’s the most empathetic, humanizing story about a schizophrenic character I have EVER read and I was shocked with how nuanced and accurate it was. It wasn’t just “oh seeing things that aren’t there… ohhh, scary,” but it was the whole picture. The thought disorder, the speech disorder, the visceral feeling of psychosis. The author based it on his schizophrenic son, and it’s very clear to me that he was studious and sensitive with getting his input.
I had some nitpicks with how the author wrote the MC’s medications to be necessary to recovery–even though he adequately brought to light how awful it can feel taking meds, it seemed they were still one of the primary separators in the book between being "well" and being "not well". Meds legitimately aren’t as good as they could be in real life, and aren’t the best solution for everyone, and I was frustrated that wasn’t called out more, but I'm willing to forgive that because of just how human everything else about this book was.
Something I really appreciated was the author made a point of showing that recovery isn’t just a one-way street from “not functioning” to “functioning”, but it's a state of being that goes through cycles; remission and relapse. As the MC works through his psychotic break it's emphasized that he's not cured, and he might come back to this point again in the future, but it’ll be okay because he can work through it again.
Very predictably, the story goes the route of having the MC hospitalized, but the book allowed him to be angry with the psych ward and have his grievances about it legitimized, and I really enjoyed that. People tend to dismiss complaints about wards but they are legitimately exploitative and can be downright horrifying, and I was grateful it wasn't a perfect haven in the book. As most non mentally ill-written accounts of psych wards are, I just wish it would’ve gone a little further, but it wasn’t outright frustrating.
He also makes friends with other kids in the ward and his friendships are legitimately helpful to his recovery, which is also really really important. It wasn’t just like “the healthy people know what's best for you and will rid you of this”, but the other mentally ill kids were integral to him gaining a better understanding of himself. Psychotic people don’t just need to be “cured”; they need to be understood, and they need to have their experiences validated. The kids related to each other in their own psychotic ways and that was everything. The way I think as a schizophrenic person can be so alienating and so lonely among non-psychotic people because they don’t understand and usually don’t try to, and I was so happy that the MC was given a chance to find comraderie from people in a similar boat.
In particular, the MC deals with delusions of granduer and reference where he feels he can see all of these signs and patterns, like they’re great truths about the world, but he can’t articulate them and people don’t understand, and he has to get it out of his head because the weight of it is consuming him even though he doesn’t really know what it is and I just relate to that feeling so, so much. But when he gets to the ward, he talks to the other kids and finds that they understand the feeling, and they talk about it, and it was just so important to me in particular that the author gave them room to do that.
Here is my biggest criticism: I have a huge issue with how a particular kid in the ward was written. One of the kids is a survivor of pretty significant trauma, and during group sessions she’s notorious for relating the conversation back to her trauma and describing it in detail over and over again, and the other kids see this as annoying. Later in the book the mc crudely tells her to get over it, and the group mediator actually praises him for this after the session.
This is infuriating because 1) it paints a trauma survivor as selfish and melodramatic, which is something we endure from society already, 2) it assumes that trauma survivors, a KID no less, is likely to freely talk about their experiences to get attention or to be self-destructive, which is just not the reality–real life trauma survivors are forced to be silent and so we internalize our pain and are acutely self-conscious of being overdramatic or attention-seeking, and 3) it assumes that yelling at a kid with PTSD is gonna make them get over it. This didn’t take up much of the book so I’m only a bit mad about it, but it was pretty upsetting to read in the moment and I’m disappointed that an otherwise humanizing story about schizophrenia would demonize a trauma survivor so readily.
I also felt annoyed with how the parents were always visibly uncomfortable and upset around their son during his break, which is a common trope where parents of psychotic kids “grieve” for their kids pre-break and make their child’s suffering all about them. They only seem to connect with him as a person when he’s not actively psychotic.
But, really. All-in-all it was accurate, it was sensible, the structure of the chapters and the writing was easy for me to digest, and it was the only “schizophrenic kid has a Beautiful Mind-style psychotic break and goes to a ward” type of plot i’ve ever seen written well, ever.
TL;DR: if you need a decent story about a schizophrenic to heal from all the awful stuff the media usually writes about us, I really recommend it. It’s not 100% perfect, and I really wish there was more fiction about schizophrenic people not necessarily about us being in hospitals and going crazy, just us existing as much as non-schizophrenics; but this is still a much, much-needed step away from the insane killer trope, and I really cherished that. I'd give it five stars if it weren't for the weird victim-blaming with the trauma-survivor girl in the ward.
But this is a SHUSTERMAN book. I knew I had to be wrong.
So I gave it some time and before I knew it, the story swallowed me up. It actually became a guessing game as the story unwound because I hadn't read the summary or any reviews, so I actually had no idea where the story was headed. But as it became clear what was happening to Caden, the story, as any good Shusterman novel does, started to fall into place.
More importantly, it proved itself to be the kind of novel that lingers. Not because it was catchy, but because it clearly meant something to the author, and it means something to the people who face the very real difficulties that Caden faces.
Top reviews from other countries
The fear of not living is a deep, abiding dread of watching your own potential decompose into irredeemable disappointment when “should be” gets crushed by what is. Sometimes I think it would be easier to die than to face that, because “what could have been” is much more highly regarded than “what should have been.” Dead kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.
Sometimes the two narratives converged – so, for example, Caden believes that he has been thrown inside a cannon in his delusion, when actually he has been put inside an MRI. It was very interesting to see the ways in which his brain could take real-life events and spin them into delusions about the ship.
Peppered throughout the novel are illustrations done by Neal Schusterman’s son whilst he was in the midst of his own mental ill health. In the note at the end of the book it is explained that he helped his father write the book in order to ensure that the descriptions were accurate to his experiences. I really liked that.
Overall, I would seriously recommend Challenger Deep as a YA novel about mental illness. Beautifully and sensitively written, it explores mental health, which is indeed as deep as the Marianas Trench.
Trigger warnings: suicide, extreme mental ill health
First of all, I bought the kindle version because it was cheaper, but I regret this. I wish I had bought the paper version to fold the corners of the pages I liked, to underline my favourite passages and so on.
I read this book in a matter of hours. At first it was quite difficult to understand, I liked the pace of it (little chapters one after another), but I didn't like how it was always jumping from the Ship to Real Life and so on. And all this boat vocabulary was really hard for me to understand (my mother tongue is French).
To be honest, I liked the Real Life chapters more, but at one point, when it all comes together, it made so much sense, I couldn't stop myself for admiring the author. The author made me feel so good, it was just so right, all the pieces of the puzzle coming together. I think that's what I liked most about this book, the parallelism between the 2 stories.
Of course, as others have mentioned, the strength of this book is the way the main topic is handled. No romanticisation, no pity either. You can't help but feel this book to your core. I felt like I was suffering from it as much as the main character, I could feel this was way to accurate and detailed to be fiction. And the author's note at the end confirmed my initial intuition.
After I finished it, I started reading it again, until I got to the point where the 2 stories come together. This is the kind of book where you just want to do this, to read it again, knowing what's up, with a new eye.
I recommended all my friends to read it. This is a masterpiece, and definitely worth your time.
a great read and this is a fantastic book about the difficulties of growing up with a mental illness and that is also
not a easy ride for the parents and family of such a child.