“Challenger Deep” Book Review

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Harper Teen

Synopsis: 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 allegience to the captain and the allure of mutiny. Caden Bosch is torn.

Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

Trigger Warning for: Depression; Anxiety; Bipolar Disorder; Schizophrenia; Suicide; Self-harm; Drugs; Alcohol

Pros:

  • Well researched and very authentic
  • Very emotional
  • Well-developed characters
  • Had a profoundness that is hard to come by in YA
  • Very original
  • Short chapters made it convenient to read anytime/anyplace
  • You’ll walk away feeling like you gained something

Cons:

  • Slow start-up
  • Can be a bit confusing at parts
  • Don’t expect diversity in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

In-Depth Review: Warning: May contain spoilers.

When I first picked up the book, I honestly had no idea what it was even about. I saw that it was written by Neal Shusterman, the same author who wrote the Unwind series, and felt an overwhelming curiosity to see what else he could come up with.

That being said, I was very pleasantly surprised by Challenge Deep. At first, I thought it was going to be some bizarre adventure book, and while, it arguably still was a bizarre adventure book, the depth of the story and characters and the insight that this book provides are in a class all their own.

Every short chapter makes you think, providing one-liners, facts, and dialogue  woven in a such a way that you find yourself seeing the world through different eyes. As a collector of quotes, this book was a treasure chest for me. I also found myself seeing things from different angles and feeling like so many of my thoughts were being explained clearly for the first time.

I would definitely recommend this book for people who are neurodivergent and neurotypical alike. If, like me, you suffer from mental illness, you’ll find that this novel sheds so much light on your experiences, explains things in ways you never quite realized, and reminds you that you’re not alone and that the challenges you face are absolutely valid. If you’re neurotypical, this novel will provide you with insight on what the people around you are going through, paint a vivid image of what mental illness feels like, and help you approach mental illnesses with more respect and understanding.

While there were parts of the story that seemed to drag and left me zoning out a bit (admittedly, I have a very short attention span), the overall takeaway from this book was something that can be very hard to come by. It wasn’t the plot or action of the story that drove it forward, but the stimulating thought, the fresh outlook on a topic that has been so taboo that most authors avoid even bringing it up in the first place. Caden’s perspective provides a straightforward, sometimes blunt, beautifully described landscape of what it means to live with mental illness.

Finally, though the novel itself didn’t bring me to tears, I did find myself getting emotional while reading the author’s note at the end. Mental illness is a topic that’s very close to my heart, and knowing that it’s one that is so close to the author as well bridged a divide between writer and reader that got the waterworks flowing. Though I usually skim over anything that isn’t the body of the novel, the author’s note is a definite must-read that gave me so much more respect for an author that I already loved.

Final Verdict: READ IT.

Favorite Quotes:

“Dead kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.”

“And I think, if thoughts are worth a penny, how much less promises must be worth. Especially the ones you’re likely to break.”

“We always look for the signs we missed when something goes wrong. We become like detectives trying to solve a murder, because maybe if we uncover the clues, it gives us some control. Sure, we can’t change what happened, but if we can string together enough clues, we can prove that whatever nightmare has befallen us, we could have stopped it, if only we had been smart enough. I suppose it’s better to believe in our own stupidity than it is to believe that all the clues in the world wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

“Have you ever considered how lonely it is to be the girl on a pedestal?”

“What’s going on? I’m in the back car of a roller coaster at the top of the climb, with the front rows already giving themselves over to gravity. I can hear those front riders screaming and I know my scream is only seconds away. I’m at the moment you hear the landing gear of a plane grind loudly into place, in that instant before your rational mind tells you it’s just the landing gear. I’m leaping off a cliff only to discover I can fly… and then realizing there’s nowhere to land. Ever.”

You can find this book on Amazon or in one of our reader collections in our shop.

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