Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman Book Review

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: April 1, 2015

Caden Bosch is on a pirate ship headed for the deepest point on Earth. He is also a brilliant high school student with friends who are starting to notice his odd behaviors.

Oscillating between present and past, Challenger Deep tells the story of one young man and his descent into madness. At first, the story felt disjointed, wrong. The pirate ship wasn't quite right, the parrot on the captain's shoulder a little too knowledgeable, the people on the ship a little more odd than one would expect, even on a pirate ship. As we go back to the past though, it soon becomes clear that what Caden is experiencing is some sort of psychotic break. It begins with the walking. Caden walks and walks, absorbed by the many thoughts in his head. Paranoid thoughts in which he thinks that a boy at his school wants to kill him, but of course he doesn't...that can't be right. Can it? His family and friends have no idea what to do and brush it off at first, but soon Caden can't hide his manic state of mind. Soon Caden finds himself in a mental hospital and as he sinks further away from the real world, the pirate ship becomes so so real.

This was not my favorite book, but it had nothing to do with the storytelling. It was because of how uncomfortable the story made me. Having known some people with various mental illnesses, I knew that no matter how this story ended, this kid will never fully escape the effects of his illness. I also knew that although the pirate ship was all in his head, to him it was very real and that too made me sad. I didn't like the book because it was a hard and harsh reality that I know is important, but was so heavy. I equate it to watching the movie Pan's Labyrinth. The movie is exceptionally well-done, but so dark that I have never been able to watch it more than once, even though I own it. If I find someone who hasn't seen it, I tell them that they must, but warn them that the story is dark and there isn't really a happy ending. And so I say the same to you. This is a wonderfully made book, but it is dark and it doesn't really have a happy ending.


Anonymous said...

Excellent review for a tough book.