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Author: Shusterman, Neal
Publisher: HarperTeen
Year Published: 2015
ISBN: 9780061134111

Challenger Deep

Reviewed by:

This novel takes readers into the mind of a 15 year old boy who is becoming schizophrenic.  Sometimes Caden is in the real world, and sometimes he is on a pirate ship bound for the deepest part of the ocean, under the control of a one-eyed captain and his cruel parrot.  The reader struggles to determine what is real, and what is not, just as Caden does.  Readers experience the development of Caden’s disease as his moments in reality become shorter and shorter.  His teachers, friends and family know something is wrong but are helpless as Caden spirals deeper into his psychosis.  Eventually Caden’s parents become desperate and admit him into a juvenile mental facility.  There readers see Caden’s thought processes, the effects of medication, or lack thereof, on his everyday functioning. We see his spiral into darkness, and his return to reality, and everything in between. Shusterman masterfully portrays the benefits and detriments of treatment, and how a lesser evil is often the only choice for someone at the end of their rope.
Knowing that Schusterman is drawing on his own son’s experience only makes this story more powerful and at times, painful.  Smart and funny, intelligent and poignant, frightening and thought provoking — this novel will stay with readers a long time. Although the novel is quite long, the chapters are very short,  which makes it a manageable read for even reluctant readers.   I highly recommend this novel for all junior and senior high school libraries.
“Haunting, unforgettable, and life-affirming all at once.” (Booklist (starred review))
“An adventure in perspective as well as plot, this unusual foray into schizophrenia should leave readers with a deeper understanding of the condition.” (Kirkus Reviews (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.” (Horn Book (starred review))
“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.” (School Library Journal (starred review))
“A powerful collaboration…[Caden’s] story turns symptoms into lived reality in ways readers won’t easily forget.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

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