Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: Challenger Deep


18075234Title: Challenger Deep
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Contemporary, YA, mental illness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads 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.
A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today's most admired writers for teens. 
This book really hit home for me, especially with recent events in my life. Dealing with mental illness is hard for everyone involved, but Neal Shusterman writes about it with such compassion and understanding. This is such an eye-opening book, and I recommend that everyone reads it.

Most books I have read about mental illness treat the illness like the elephant in the room: everyone knows it's there but no one wants to talk about it. The main character is typically struggling with something, and his/her parents and friends are generally clueless. If someone is there to help, it is often in isolation and after some form of deeply traumatic incident. Basically, the main character is defined by their struggle against their mental illness, and it is often portrayed as something you have to figure out and overcome on your own.

Neal Shusterman does write a story about a boy who struggles with mental illness; however, he includes a support structure and a far more compassionate and realistic view on what it's like to battle your own mind. Not only do Caden's parents take an active role in getting him help, so do other adults and friends. Caden is never alone, as much as he may sometimes feel that way. Shusterman also does a phenomenal job of showing how different kids deal with their demons differently; some take longer to heal than others, and some can never heal at all.

What I appreciated about this book was how it told a very emotional and difficult story without ever truly feeling depressing. There was always hope, be it a lighthearted joke or a friendly pat on the shoulder, even during the most intense parts of the book. As someone who has friends with mental disorders and someone who experienced depression, I can say that these things don't ever truly go away. There's no magic happy pill that can make your demons disappear; you just find better ways of telling them to leave you alone. Shusterman respects that, and doesn't try to sugar-coat the truth, yet at the same time he presents his story in a very positive and encouraging way.

I cannot even put my thoughts together about this book because it affected me so emotionally. I want everyone to read it because this is the sort of book that clears up misconceptions and helps people become more supportive and understanding of people they know who may have mental illnesses. It's a book that tells you that you're not alone and that there is help and hope for you even if you can't get the demons out of your head. This is a book that changes lives, and maybe even saves them.

A free e-ARC was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

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