Challenger Deep

challengerdeepby Neal Shusterman
First sentence: ”
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Content: There’s some talk about drinking, but none actual. And there’s some mild swearing. But the reason it’s in the Teen (grades 9+) section of the bookstore is because it’s an extended metaphor. I’d give it to someone in 7/8th grade if I thought they’d “get” it.

Very seldom does a jacket flap so succinctly sum up a book, but in this case, I think whomever at HarperTeen did this, was spot on:

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.

This book. I’ve been avoiding it for months, and I really only picked it up because Pop Culture Happy Hour did a recent podcast on it. But this book pulled me in and didn’t let me go. I don’t know of a more accurate, a more compelling, a more beautiful rendering of the spiral that mental illness — it really doesn’t matter what Caden’s diagnosed with — is. Shusterman gives us an allegory with the ship that is compelling and intriguing and maybe a little confusing. But the confusion is part of the trip; Shusterman not only wants us to read about Caden’s descent into illness, he wants us to feel that with him. And feel I did.

Powerful. And definitely one that will stay with me for a long time.