On My Bookshelf: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

January 16, 2017

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman portrays the terrible reality of a teenager suffering from mental health issues. In his head, Caden is aboard a ship headed for the deepest part of the sea; in reality, his behavior is growing increasingly concerning to family and friends. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: 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."

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman portrays the terrible reality of a teenager suffering from mental health issues. In his head, Caden is aboard a ship headed for the deepest part of the sea; in reality, his behavior is growing increasingly concerning to family and friends. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.Why I liked it: Challenger Deep is a novel that portrays the reality of mental illness, not the
romanticized version too often depicted in film and literature. The novel begins with a note from the author, in which he discusses his personal experiences and shares that the artwork in the book are his son's drawings. The novel very clearly illustrates the toll mental illness takes upon one's family and friends, but also the misunderstandings about mental health. One character Callie, who has had repeat trips to the mental hospital, laments that each time she returns home her family does not understand that she isn't "fixed."

I struggled with reading the book at first because the narrator bounces between reality and his alternate reality of life on a pirate, but the connection between the two becomes clearer as the novel progresses.

Classroom application: Challenger Deep could be paired with nonfiction texts about mental health issues. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, a set of case studies focused on the most interesting of Dr. Sack's patients with neurological disorders, would be a great pairing.

Neal Shusterman's writing style also makes this novel a great source of mentor sentences. 

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Challenger Deep for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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1 comments

  1. I absolutely adore this book. I work in an alternative school designed for students with mental illness and this is one of the most realistic views of mental illness I've ever read. I love Neal Shusterman as an author, which is how I came to pick up this book. Another few books that very accurately portray mental illness are Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and Boy21 by Matthew Quick and It's Kind of a Funny STORY by Ned Vizzini.

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