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Challenger Deep (Golden Kite Awards) Hardcover – April 21, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Caden Bosch lives in two worlds. One is his real life with his family, his friends, and high school. There he is paranoid for no reason, thinks people are trying to kill him, and demonstrates obsessive compulsive behaviors. In his other world, he's part of the crew for a pirate captain on a voyage to the Challenger Deep, the ocean's deepest trench. There he's paranoid, wary of the mercurial captain and his mutinous parrot, and tries hard to interpret the mutterings of his fellow shipmates as they sail uncharted waters toward unknown dangers. Slowly, Caden's fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, until his parents have only one choice left. Shusterman's latest novel gives readers a look at teen mental illness from inside the mind of Caden Bosch. He is a credible and sympathetic character, and his retreat into his own flawed mind is fascinating, full of riddles and surrealism. Shusterman based the novel on his son's mental illness, and Brendan's input regarding his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and psychiatric care makes the novel ring true. Teens, especially fans of the author's other novels, will enjoy this book. VERDICT 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.—Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL
“A brilliant journey across the dark sea of mental illness; frightening, sensitive, and powerful. Simply extraordinary.” (Laurie Halse Anderson, award-winning author of Speak)
“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. VERDICT 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))
Top customer reviews
In the other story, Caden is on a sailing ship headed to the Challenger Deep—the deepest portion of the Marianas Trench at almost 7 miles down, and—symbolically—Caden’s rock-bottom . Shipboard life is Caden’s hallucinated experience of the mental hospital. Over time the reader begins to match up characters from the real world with those from the delusion—both patients and staff members. This is a mutinous vessel, and the tension reflects the pull between Caden’s desire to be well and the appeal of the world of delusion.
Over time the author shows key events in both lines and the reader can connect them up to interpret how delusional Caden experiences the world. The story isn’t strictly told in a chronological order, though the broad sweep of it is. The bits of disjoint create no confusion while helping to convey the nature of a fractured mind. This works, in part, because the book is told over 161 short chapters, and, because the chapters are so short, a diversion doesn’t take one far and it’s easy to show the match up of events. The book artfully conveys the bizarreness of a dreamlike world of delusion while remaining clear and readable. Any confusion in the early chapters becomes rectified as the author reveals how the delusional world and the real world zip together.
This book was imaginative, enjoyable to read, as well as allowing the reader insight into the nature of mental illness. Atypical of a work of fiction, there is a resources section that provides contact information for organizations that support mental health.
I’d highly recommend this book for fiction readers.
That said, this book didn't do that as much. I was at first bothered by that. It almost seemed like there wasn't as much of him (or me) written into the main character. I like finding myself relating so deeply to the main character that they feel like an extension of me. I like connecting with the author in that way. But I realized: He wasn't writing his own story. It's a story he identifies deeply with (as referenced by the author's note at the end); it is clearly a part of his narrative, but he was stepping into a place outside of himself to write it.
As a result, I didn't connect as deeply personally, except for a few random paragraphs of Shusterman-POW that hit me in the gut with familiarity (which is much more common in his other writings). Once I realized that this story wasn't "for me" and building my ego and making me feel understood, but was for bringing a deeper understanding outside of myself, I fell into the story.
I am so grateful that Shusterman was vulnerable enough to share this story. It's easier to write your own insecurities and fears into a book. Authors tend to be oversharers when it comes to "the depths of who they are". But to share a major part of his life and his son's life, to attempt to shed light on a touchy area and to try to fight the taboo of "talking about it"... He does a lot and does it well.
Masterfully blended, with a sort of "Wayside School" feeling of other-reality-ness (for other 90s kids), this book was gripping. I highly recommend it. That said, if you don't like it, I would say this is also not "typical Shusterman", so don't let this close you off to his other writings. I hope most people can come to see this the way I did, if they don't deeply identify. Allow yourself to buy into the narrative and feel the cognitive dissonance within yourself. Feel the growing tension. If you let yourself "go there", it will be a very powerful read and experience for you.
I also really appreciated Brandon's art and shared vulnerability. If either of the Shustermans read this: Thank you. Neal, I hope one day I have the honor of meeting you in person and just gleaning from your incredible Bradbury-like wisdom. Thank you both for sharing so much in this project.
This is not an easy read . . . the reader is thrust into the delusion world; into the real world; carried along with our teen character who suffers from a schizophrenic type of illness . . . stay with this book . . . stay with these characters . . . stay with this author whose own experience with his son is reflected in story and in description.
Love this book . . . oh, yes indeed.
Most recent customer reviews
Challenger Deep is written in such a way that I could feel Caden's struggle.Read more