Shusterman, Neal. Challenger Deep. HarperTeen, 2015. ISBN 9780061134111. 308p. $17.99. Gr. 9-up. P10 Q10
When we first meet Caden Bosch (the narrator of this story) he is a happy-go-lucky, popular nerd with a slightly off-kilter idea that someone at his school is trying to kill him. Over the course of 100 pages, we see his paranoia and delusions grow to the point where he has to be institutionalized and heavily medicated to control his schizophrenic terrors. Caden tells his story (his ‘descent into madness’) with a parallel fantasy of his misadventures on a pirate ship that is heading for the Marianas Trench. The dialog is alternatively tortuous and ironically funny, and Caden is a very lovable character that teens will easily relate to. Shusterman’s mastery is rooted in his personal experience; the author’s son (who illustrated this book) is schizophrenic. Shusterman writes, in his author’s notes, “I watched as someone I loved journeyed to the deep, and I felt powerless to stop the descent.” This has got to be one of the more disturbingly painful books I have read in many years, yet it is a book that should be in every young adult collection. Also includes a 2 page list of mental health resources.
October 2015 review by L.F., NHS Staff