Review – Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman


Challenger Deep

By Neal Shusterman


SummaryCaden 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 allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. Caden Bosch is torn. 

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.


Source: I purchased a paperback


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I purchased Challenger Deep for the 2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge for the National Book Award Winner category and also because I’ve seen a lot of buzz about it. I knew it was about mental illness, but I was hesitant to pick it up because I wasn’t sure if Neal Shusterman could pull off the story without losing me since the Unwind Dystology was not something I could finish. I’m glad that the 2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompted me to pick it up, though, because the book was incredible.

Challenger Deep was absolutely spectacular and described madness in a way I haven’t seen it described before. The entire book was just brilliant, well executed, and fascinating. I was invested in Caden’s progress, but I was also impressed by everything the author did as far as using literary tools in this book. Not an opportunity was missed, in my opinion, and it’s a stunning story, but also an important portrayal of mental illness. I feel like it’s a book that was needed in that subject area that educates while also weaving a captivating fictional story.

The book, like the synopsis, features two stories. One in which Caden is on a ship headed for Challenger Deep, the other where Caden is a high school student spiraling out of control. Both stories were happening to Caden as he struggled to comprehend the world around him. 

It is a little difficult to review the book because I don’t want to give too much of the story away. I enjoyed not knowing what to expect and I enjoyed the way the book was laid out. Caden’s mental landscape was quite a place to be. The author blew me away with this book. It was such a brilliant comparison with analogies that worked quite well. I was captivated by the story and by Caden’s mind. He lost his grip on reality, yet could nail the personalities of other people through his art. 

I don’t know that madness has been explored this way. If it has, I haven’t yet been exposed to such a unique and compelling story about mental illness. It was a stunning book and one that I hope ends up in the hands of teens in schools, not only to help them understand mental illnesses, but as a literary work worthy of close study. It would make a wonderful discussion novel because of the themes and the analogies and personification of Caden’s experiences and feelings.

I can’t stress enough how amazing Challenger Deep was. I’m at a loss for words, really. It was moving and brilliant and extremely worthy of all of the awards it has won. Even if reading about a character losing his grip on reality isn’t typically your kind of story, Challenger Deep is a must read and I recommend it. 

Star 5