I think I'm feeling more emotions than the first time I read it? If that's even possible?
You can read my full review here on my blog, Starry Sky Books!
This is one of my favorite reviews. If you're thinking about reading this book, I highly suggest you skim through my review, so you can find out some vital info about how the book is set up. (cw: mental illness, mental hospitals, mentions of self-harm, mentions of death, implication of suicide
I would like to begin this review by saying two things: 1)
This is a reread review. When I was younger, I used to give all of my favorite books 5 stars because I loved them, but also because I hadn’t read many books in general, other than my favorites. This one remains one of my favorites, and is the only 5 star review on this blog so far because of my history with it. But just because I love it, does not mean that you will! 2) Challenger Deep
includes subjects which may not be for everyone. It can be difficult to read at times. Sometimes the story is slow or confusing, but the story is meant to be that way. This is one of those books which, unfortunately, requires you to understand the premise before reading, I’ve seen several negative reviews for this book, but a lot of them are due to the reviewers being confused for much of the book. Hopefully I can explain a little of this! a little anecdote about this book:
When I found out about this book several years ago, it was because my school library had put up posters about it all over the place. Back in the good old days of 2015, Challenger Deep
won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Libraries (at least, in my area) were advertising it well and whenever they could, and because of this, there were at least three posters of the book in my school library alone.
These posters intrigued me. “What is this book about?” I asked myself. “Why does it look like he’s drowning in water on a string? Why are all of the librarians obsessed with this book, when no one I know has read it?”
I later looked up reviews on Goodreads. From these reviews, I learned something that the synopsis didn’t convey. Challenger Deep is a story about schizophrenia.
This piece of vital information may be what keeps you from turning this book away. I won’t go into any more detail than that, but I believe knowing this part of the story is crucial to how one understands why the story unfolds the way it does. on to the review: Challenger Deep
is told in an unusual way: the story unfolds through short, alternating chapters conveying the main character as both a regular teenage boy and a pirate on a ship. While this may seem strange to some people, this may have been one of the reasons why I loved it.
I can see why some people might have been confused while reading this book for the first time, but when I look back on my past experience, I don’t remember ever being out of the loop. This is why I gave that small bit of info in the beginning! You’re going to need it. Safe travels.
While the unique alternating realities are special, I also love that this story itself just feels so touching, heart-breakingly raw, and wildly separate from reality at the same time. There are certain scenes in this book which may seem crazy and unrealistic, but… if you keep on reading, everything will eventually fall into place. You’ll begin to understand all of the strange happenings, and why Caden sees the world in the way that he does. And if you’re still confused in the beginning… I suggest you wait until chapters 75-84. That’s when everything will start to click!
I’m usually hesitant about reading/talking about mental illness-related books, since some of them are not told by people who have experienced the mental illness themselves. However, Challenger Deep was heavily inspired by Neal Shusterman’s son, and his experiences with schizophrenia.
Knowing this also helped me to understand the severity of this story, and how real it can be for some people.
Of course, everyone experiences mental illnesses differently. But unfortunately, in today’s world, a lot of people have no idea what to think about many mental illnesses.
I’m ashamed that I grew up thinking schizophrenia was synonymous with “multiple personality disorder” (which is now referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder). For some reason, the media often portrayed mental illnesses however they wanted and in a simplified manner, so that people like me were often sheltered from discovering what it was actually like to have those illnesses. While the media seems to have gotten better with the way this is handled, it’s still not good enough, and not much better at all. Reading this book several years ago, and even now during this reread, opened my eyes to the struggles others endure in their every-day lives.
It’s heartbreaking that many mental illnesses are often dismissed because they’re not as common as anxiety or depression, but books like Challenger Deep
are important because they highlight some aspects of mental health which would otherwise not be shared.
Generally, I was riveted while reading this book. Even though I already knew how it was going to end, I still enjoyed the ride and sat at the edge of my seat. This book is very character/emotion driven, and if you’re more of an action/plot person, this book may not be for you. Challenger Deep
is more about personal discoveries and emotional acceptance than anything else.
I would like to say, though, that the plot could have been possibly a bit better, and the ending could have been a tiny bit slower. But did I cry? Yes, of course. Did I love it? Still, yes. my rating:
While I think it deserves something more like 4.5 stars, I already marked it as “5 Stars” on my Goodreads and I’m feeling generous/nostalgic today, so… 5 Stars it is!