Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m not an avid Neal Shusterman reader. The only other novel of his that I’m familiar with is Bruiser . I’ve read a couple of novels with mental illness as the main subject (one fiction, one memoir) and I can’t call myself an expert, but I think that this is a pretty good read on the topic and what it can be like to spiral down into the darkness of a mentally ill mind. It was a serious topic, but somehow Shusterman made the topic almost fun to explore. The pirate ship was a very interesting angle to the story.
I would have liked to see some sort of sword duel on the ship between Caden and the captain, but let’s not talk about that here.
Because let’s face it. It’s not real and it’s not boring. The whole fantasy with the ship was honestly the best part of the book for me. And while reality is nice, I can see the appeal of this fantasy. As a teenager struggling with physical disability and striving to get colleges to notice her, I can understand why Caden prefers his fantasy to the reality of things. We all carry around baggage that we don’t want. I can see why this book is listed as YA, but I can see it sitting well with adults, too. Life never gets easier just because someone grows up.
My only real complaint about the book is that I don’t feel that Caden’s family played a big enough role in the story. I can understand an adolescent trying to branch out into the world, but I wish his family had been a bigger value for him. Maybe I feel that way because I read Nic Sheff’s Schizo, but I digress.
Overall, a good read that I highly recommend for the reader interested in mental illness and willing to see a mature, raw, and real take on the topic.