Week 15, Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Shusterman, N. (2015). Challenger Deep. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
This haunting novel is focuses in on 14-year-old Caden Bosch and his mental illness. Caden has schizophrenia, which causes him to hallucinate scenarios in which he is navigating towards the deepest place on Earth at the bottom of Challenger Deep. In real life, the people around him begin to worry and are concerned about what is going on in his head. Meanwhile, Caden’s mind is filled with a subplot of a captain promising fortunes while his own parrot cries for mutiny. Eventually, Caden is taken to Seaview Hospital’s psychiatric unit for treatment but his unstable condition becomes alarmingly real. In Caden’s hallucinated subplot, he eventually makes a choice and the audience sees a metaphor for the mind come to light.
Keywords: mental health; hallucinations; captain and parrot; life’s struggle
What I Think:
What the Experts Think:
Award-winning author Shusterman returns to realistic fiction with a breathtaking exploration of one teen’s experience with schizophrenia. Caden Bosch thinks there is somebody at his high school who wants to kill him. But that’s not all. There are things happening outside of the typical space and time constraints that he can’t understand. He feels at once all-powerful and frighteningly powerless. Caden slowly drifts away from friends and family and deeper into his mind, until his parents admit him to a mental hospital for further evaluation and treatment. Shusterman beautifully deploys dual narratives that become increasingly intertwined in this remarkable story. In addition to the grounded-in-reality narrative, he introduces another world, where Caden is out at sea with the Captain, a girl named Calliope, a parrot, and more. All of these characters eventually match realworld counterparts in the hospital and beyond. In confessional back matter, Shusterman explains his inspiration for this powerful story: his own son Brendan’s experience in the depths of mental illness. Brendan Shusterman’s illustrations, interspersed throughout, contribute significantly to the reading experience. With the increasing demand for understanding mental illness, this is a must-purchase for library collections. Haunting, unforgettable, and life affirming all at once. -Jennifer Barnes
Barnes, J. (2015). Challenger deep. The Booklist, 111(11), 47.