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Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep

4.0 6
by Neal Shusterman

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National Book Award and Golden Kite Award Winner

A captivating novel about mental illness that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.

Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of


National Book Award and Golden Kite Award Winner

A captivating novel about mental illness that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.

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.

Challenger Deep is a deeply powerful and personal novel from one of today's most admired writers for teens. Laurie Halse Anderson, award-winning author of Speak, calls Challenger Deep "a brilliant journey across the dark sea of the mind; frightening, sensitive, and powerful. Simply extraordinary."

Editorial Reviews

Laurie Halse Anderson
“A brilliant journey across the dark sea of mental illness; frightening, sensitive, and powerful. Simply extraordinary.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Haunting, unforgettable, and life-affirming all at once.”
Horn Book (starred review)
“Clearly written with love, the novel is moving; but it’s also funny, with dry, insightful humor. Illustrations by the author’s son Brendan, drawn during his own time in the depths of mental illness, haunt the story with scrambling, rambling lines, tremulousness, and intensity.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“Shusterman does a masterful job...The intensity of living inside Caden’s mind makes this a wrenching read.”
Publishers Weekly
★ 02/16/2015
With lyricism and potent insight, Shusterman (Unwind) traces the schizophrenic descent and return of Caden Bosch, an intelligent 15-year-old and a gifted artist. His internal narratives are sometimes dreams, sometimes hallucinations, and sometimes undefinable, dominated by a galleon and its captain, sailing with an enormous, sullen crew to the deepest point of the Marianas Trench, Challenger Deep. The metaphor’s not exactly subtle, but Shusterman finds unexpected resonance in its details—the tarry seams in the wood, the human ballast. External reality still registers: people around Caden run the gamut of humor, scolding, threats, and avoidance to pressure him into changing behavior he no longer controls. Shusterman has mined personal experience of mental illness with his son Brendan, whose line drawings mirror Caden’s fragmentation in swirling lines eerily reminiscent of Van Gogh. It’s a powerful collaboration, and crucial to the novel’s credibility. As Caden says, “There is no such thing as a ‘correct’ diagnosis,” and though his story doesn’t necessarily represent a “typical” experience of mental illness, it turns symptoms into lived reality in ways readers won’t easily forget. Ages 14–up. Agent: Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Apr.)
VOYA, April 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 1) - Lisa A. Hazlett
Caden Bosch is fifteen, fiercely intelligent, and an aspiring artist who enjoys illustrating the computer games he and his friends create. He is also schizophrenic, drifting further from the present and deeper into his own mind until he is living in dual realities, both frightening and confusing. When retreating from family and friends, Caden imagines himself on a ship with an Ahab-like captain, sailing toward Earth’s deepest, darkest place. This nautical narrative portrays his illness and reveals increasing anxiety and conflict, as the captain promises glory for Caden’s loyalty, but the captain’s parrot’s declarations of mutiny as salvation are equally convincing. Caden is admitted to a psychiatric unit, where the patients and staff resemble Caden’s shipmates, contemporaries, and voyage, and he realizes treatment and stability must be his choice alone. Readers desiring immediate context may find Caden’s use of present tense and lack of transitions confusing, but his dual narratives soon become interwoven and engrossing, with commentary hilarious and poignant. Further, Caden’s journey is strikingly conveyed by the numerous abstract illustrations throughout the novel, and rationales for his unconventional actions acquire unexpected reasonableness. Caden's delusions and uncertainty, along with the awkwardness of family and friends when with him, create a thoroughly realistic story, made more believable by the lack of quick answers or cures and the emphasis on the face that schizophrenia is controlled, not cured. Both male and female readers will find this compelling while acquiring a deeper compassion and understanding of the condition, especially after learning this is essentially the story of Shusterman’s son, who also illustrated the novel. Reviewer: Lisa A. Hazlett; Ages 11 to 15.
School Library Journal
★ 02/01/2015
Gr 9 Up—Caden Bosch lives in two worlds. One is his real life with his family, his friends, and high school. There he is paranoid for no reason, thinks people are trying to kill him, and demonstrates obsessive compulsive behaviors. In his other world, he's part of the crew for a pirate captain on a voyage to the Challenger Deep, the ocean's deepest trench. There he's paranoid, wary of the mercurial captain and his mutinous parrot, and tries hard to interpret the mutterings of his fellow shipmates as they sail uncharted waters toward unknown dangers. Slowly, Caden's fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, until his parents have only one choice left. Shusterman's latest novel gives readers a look at teen mental illness from inside the mind of Caden Bosch. He is a credible and sympathetic character, and his retreat into his own flawed mind is fascinating, full of riddles and surrealism. Shusterman based the novel on his son's mental illness, and Brendan's input regarding his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and psychiatric care makes the novel ring true. Teens, especially fans of the author's other novels, will enjoy this book. VERDICT This affecting deep dive into the mind of a schizophrenic will captivate readers, engender empathy for those with mental illnesses, and offer much fodder for discussion.—Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL
Kirkus Review
★ 2015-01-20
Fantasy becomes reality in an exploration of mental illness based partly on the experiences of the author's son, who is also the book's illustrator. For 14-year-old Caden Bosch, his gradual descent into schizophrenia is a quest to reach the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest place on Earth. In an internal reality that's superimposed over Caden's real life—where his behavior slips from anxiety to hearing voices and compulsively obeying signage—an Ahab-like captain promises riches in exchange for allegiance, while his parrot urges mutiny for a chance at life ashore. Shusterman unmoors readers with his constant use of present tense and lack of transitions, but Caden's nautical hallucination-turned-subplot becomes clearer once his parents commit him to Seaview Hospital's psychiatric unit with its idiosyncratic crew of patients and staff. However, Caden's disorientation and others' unease also make the story chillingly real. Except in the heights of Caden's delusions, nothing is romanticized—just off-kilter enough to show how easily unreality acquires its own logic and wit. The illustrator, who has struggled with mental illness himself, charts the journey with abstract line drawings that convey Caden's illness as well as his insight. When the depths are revealed with a dream-logic twist and Caden chooses an allegiance, the sea becomes a fine metaphor for a mind: amorphous and tumultuous but ultimately navigable. An adventure in perspective as well as plot, this unusual foray into schizophrenia should leave readers with a deeper understanding of the condition. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Neal Shusterman is a New York Times bestselling and award-winning author. He is the author of Challenger Deep, a National Book Award winner, Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Honor Book, and recipient of six starred reviews; Bruiser, which was a Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choice, a YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults pick, and on twelve state lists; The Schwa Was Here; and the Unwind dystology, among many other books. He lives in California with his family.

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Challenger Deep 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a challenge to read,but in a good way. You experience and see the perspective of someone who is losing his mind. It takes you through the struggle of reality. What is real when you can't trust your mind?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good look in to mental illness.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Very well thought out book, and is touching coming from a father who dealt with similar problems with a loved one.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
In a year when we have books like All These Bright Places with deeply damaging portrayals of mental illness, the literary world needed this honest portrayal of one boy's struggle with schizophrenia. (Although it has to be said that the inclusion of illustrations from Shusterman's own son felt a bit indulgent.) Sadly, because I have a heart of stone, this book left me deeply unaffected. It's one of those where I can tell it's Important but I also can't bring myself to Care on a personal level as a reader. I think Challenger Deep is a great book to recommend to readers; the way in which Shusterman weaves everything together clearly demonstrates his talents as an author. This book definitely and completely deserves the praise its been getting solely for what its done to get more people talking about mental health and mental illness. The one flaw here is having Caden's medications leave him numb. I don't know where to begin with the fact that in his author's note Shusterman says he experienced that effect himself when he accidentally took two pills. That's not how treatment with medication works. At all. Why would his reaction to the pills be at all indicative of how someone who actually needs the pills would react to them? No. Just no. Challenger Deep won the 2015 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. That says a lot about the level of skill in Shusterman's writing while handling a difficult topic and wrestling with some complicated material. The way in which this story weaves together Caden's reality with his hallucinations--seamlessly moving between moments of madness and clarity, as it were--is fascinating and intricate and handled very, very well. An interesting and important addition to the ongoing conversation about mental illness.
Sarah_UK1 More than 1 year ago
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.) “Count your blessings,” the captain says, “And if you count less than ten, cut off the remaining fingers.” This story was just plain weird, and while I figured out after a while that it was actually about mental illness, it was still pretty weird. “Where does this hallway go?” She looks at me with suspicion. “It doesn’t go anywhere, it stays right here.” Caden was a boy who had obviously got problems, the hallucinations that the was experiencing were so vivid that he actually believed that they were really happening to him, and his delusions about a boy at school who he had never spoken to wanting to kill him, did come across as a symptom of possible schizophrenia. “well, it’s just that… there’s this kid at school.” “Yes?” “Of course I can’t be sure…” “Yes?” “Well… I think he wants to kill me.” The storyline in this was split in two, half of the time we were following Caden as he lived on a ship (which was very strange), and the other half of the time we saw Caden at home with his family, and experienced the strange ideas he came out with, and his admission to a mental health care facility. This was all a bit confusing though, and after a while I started to get a bit sick of the repetativeness of the story. “Cartilage of cow,” he tells, “and spine of black beetle.” “Beetles have no spines,” I point out. “They’re invertebrates.” “Exactly. That’s why it’s so rare.” The ending to this was okay, and I appreciated what the author had tried to do with this story, I just struggled to really enjoy this though. 6 out of 10
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
Karen at For What It's Worth and Mary at The Book Swarm occasionally post twitter-style reviews. Karen calls hers Short and Tweet, and I am going to borrow that review style here. Tweet Review: (okay, okay, it would really be two tweets, forgive me?) Intense dive into one young man's battle with mental illness. Through our unreliable narrator we journey on a vessel called Challenger, into the hospital and on his journey to decipher what is reality and what are delusions. Though I was a bit confused at times and skimmed a bit. My question to