Book Review – ‘Challenger Deep’ by Neal Shusterman

This book played with my brain…

Challenger Deep Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Contemporary, magical realism

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

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.   

Page border by Casey Carlisle

On face value, I thought ‘Challenger Deep’ was about a psychological analogy between exploring the deep and discovering inner strength. And it is that, but you don’t get any real life adventure of the underwater world – it’s all in the protagonist’s head. And from a marine biologist aficionado, I felt a little duped.

From part way in, I found ‘Challenger Deep’ tedious to read, switching from realms and dreams – I wanted to be entertained, but didn’t get that. The narrative went all over the place and I found myself getting bored. In hindsight I understand there is a purpose to this style or narrative. The frequent tangents bulging with symbolism are meant to reflect Caden, (our protagonist) mental state, but for me it bogged down the pace and plot. It almost gave me a headache.

Neal Shusterman has done a marvellous job in describing the working mind of a person suffering mental illness, and can see where ‘Challenger Deep’ had received all of its accolades; but this just wasn’t the read for me.

I just have to mention there is a short paragraph on the topic of suicide (in the last quarter) that Caden inwardly muses upon, which I thought was excellent and poignant. This is by no means a horrible book, though, I would have liked to have seen it at least half as long; or have another aspect of the story introduced that isn’t touched by Caden’s illness. The only way I can describe my feelings over this book is that it was like peering through those glass bricks, where the view on the other side is warped and blurred to the point of bare recognition. Yes, that is the whole point of this novel, but I completed it with a sense of wanting more.

I may have rated it lower if not for such a spot on picture of a mentally ill person; and giving it a positive, uplifting spin. Ground-breaking really. But I guess in tackling such a topic, you fall into the danger zone of unrelatable characters – and that’s what happened to me.

Overall, I loved the message and depiction of a youngster in the grips of a manic episode, but if there was another aspect to this story which broke up all of the craziness and given me something to gain more of an outside perspective (and sub-plot). Sadly, I found myself not enjoying this book at all. It took a great deal of will power to finish it. And as a result would only recommend it to a more high-brow, critical reader.

Overall feeling: You really take a trip down the rabbit hole…

Challenger Deep Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Challenger Deep Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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