by Neal Shusterman
Published by Walker Books Australia
Publication Date: 6th of August, 2020
Australian RRP: $18.99
“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 behaviour. 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.”
Challenger Deep was first published in 2016 and is now being published in Australia by Walker Books. This story details mental illness, showing real ups and down, not glamorizing it, and giving a real depth to it that is truly sad at times. This boy is written in a way that can also be understood by a younger audience as a Young Adult novel that could also be read by mature primary aged readers.
Walker Books says, “This is a deeply personal novel for Neal, as his son Brendan was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager. Twelve pieces of artwork in the book were done by Brendan himself.” With Brendan now being an adult and working with his father on this book it rightly won a National Book Award and a Golden Kite Award. I think it’s so uplifting to see how they have worked with mental illness to deliver it to his readers and try to show people what it’s like in the place of someone experiencing this.
One of the book’s most popular quotes shows the general theme of the book, “Dead kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.”
A chapter can begin in an everyday classroom with our main character Caden listening to his teacher and then suddenly Caden is in the middle of the ocean, on a pirate ship in the middle of chaos! As a reader we know there’s no pirate ship but reading this book it’s really clear how real it is for Caden. Neal Shusterman is one of my favorite authors because of his descriptive language in all his novels, making it easy for me to feel how the wind and water would whip around Caden’s head while he’s actually sitting in his dull classroom at school.
Yes, this can be confusing because there is absolutely no differentiating between what’s real and what is in Caden’s head but that’s how it’s meant to be read. For Caden, there is no black and white of what’s in front of him and what’s in his head. I love the way the book explores that and I think it should be confusing for readers because it brings light to how difficult it must be. I enjoyed seeing how the two worlds became so blended for him and I liked reading about his family’s assistance for him. It’s a potent book because the author put so much truth into the book with all of their real-life experiences and it connects to a reader so much more because of the raw honesty of it.
(Thank you to Walker Books Australia for a copy of this book for an honest review. Challenger Deep is out now online and in stores!)
Thanks for reading!