Rating: *** Suggested Age: 13
Summary: “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 allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
Caden Bosch is torn.” (Summary found on Goodreads).
Challenger Deep is so hard for me to review, because I loved it, but didn’t at the same time. The parts of the book that Caden narrated from his real life, instead of the one in his head, were really interesting. The other parts, however, where he was on the Challenger Deep, were not nearly as compelling. With that said, I could not put this book down. It was so interesting and different from anything I’ve ever read.
The main character, Caden, has schizophrenia, but that is never explicitly stated. Given that he’s mentally ill, there was a disconnect from me and him. I believe, though, that this was Neal Shusterman’s intention. I think that if it was easy to understand and connect to Caden, then it wouldn’t be as realistic. Throughout the whole book, I felt like Caden was hardly there. It seemed that his permanent residence was inside his own head, which made him absent from the book. Again, I strongly believe that this was Shusterman’s intention and it was very well done. This is one of the only books that not being able to connect to the character is a good thing.
My only problem with this book was the aforementioned dullness of the chapters that took place on Challenger Deep. I didn’t find them as interesting and it was half the book. I wanted more of Caden’s real life, but I completely understand why it was necessary to include the other scenes. Without them, you wouldn’t achieve enough of a grasp on who the real Caden is.
Challenger Deep covers a heavy topic with ease. After reading the author’s note at the end, I realized why Shusterman was so knowledgeable in the topic–his own son has schizophrenia. The artwork featured throughout the book is his son’s. I’m extremely glad that I read the author’s note before the actual book because it made the story more personable.
I highly recommend that you pick up Challenger Deep. I may have given it only three stars, but it’s truly a work of art.