Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman [Review]

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The only thing you have for measuring what’s real is your mind… so what happens when your mind becomes a pathological liar?

Wow! This book is absolutely brilliant! I can’t even begin to comprehend how much work and research was put into this book in order to deliver and execute Caden Bosch’s journey with this level of intricacy. I dived into this book not really knowing what it’s about and hence not really knowing what to expect. But I was so pleased as I finally came up for air after turning the last page.

Caden Bosch is a fifteen-year-old boy going through the onset of schizoaffective disorder. I’m not an expert, and the tiny amount of knowledge that I have about this particular mental illness came from my psych elective in college and it’s long forgotten. So with the help of mighty Google, I jogged my memory: This is a mental disorder often characterized by the failure to recognize the difference between real and not real. Or at least that’s the gist of the article I read.

I guess this is why it was a little difficult at first to get a hold of the way this book was written. Essentially, there seemed to be two different things going on with Caden: (1) his normal teenager life (real aspect) and (2) his journey towards Challenger Deep aboard a pirate ship led by a formidable captain (imaginary aspect). It would take a bit of caution to tell you how this plays out without spoiling anything. But I will say that it is such a thrill to figure out for yourself where both narratives begin and end. And don’t worry if a lot of things doesn’t make sense at first because everything will start to click at around halfway through the book.

Every single element of this book gave depth and dimension to its message. From the storyline to the simple yet evocative illustrations and even to the author’s note, Shusterman never loses sight of what he wants to accomplish with his work. The way he shaped Caden and the things he sees every time he’s in his unreal state contained so much subtle symbolism that when I’ve decoded them, all I could think of is why the hell haven’t I read any of his works before. How Caden addresses himself in certain parts of the book, either in first or second person, shows ingenuity and aptly informs you about his current state of mind giving you the right punches in the gut to realize how the human mind can be so unreliable. And damn, it was so raw.

The way this book ended is just so honest to the point of being bittersweet but that’s what made it hurt so much more. The book was full of powerful insights regarding mental illness and how it affects those suffering from it, giving them justice and more importantly: hope. It is smartly written, probably one of the most intelligent YA’s out there with so much potential for exhaustive critical analysis.

Haunting and delicate. It merits itself an emotional second read. And soon.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Shelve this on Goodreads

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