In Which Neal Shusterman Rips My Heart Out Again (A Review of Challenger Deep)

7:45 AM

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.

Me trying to explain my excitement for this book to other people. 
Okay, we seriously need to talk about this. 

I'm a huge Neal Shusterman fan. I'll basically buy whatever he writes ever because Bruiser and the Unwind dystology are some of my most favoritest books ever, so when I say that I've had this book pre-ordered and been waiting for it for about four or five months now, you know I'm not kidding. It came on Tuesday and I devoured pretty much all of it on that same day! 

There were tears. Lots of tears. This doesn't happen often for me. But honestly? 

This book is important. 

Shusterman has put so much heart into this and you can see it on every page. It's full of emotion, genuine deep emotion, and it's heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. It deals quite heavily with mental illness, but it does it in a way that's both delicately thoughtful and brutally accurate. It doesn't pull any punches but every bit of it is skillfully, carefully done. It tore my heart into tiny shreds, rolled it in glass, and stepped on it again. 

First up on the List of Things I Must Wail About: Caden himself. OH MY POOR BABY. Caden is, of course, our MC, and it follows his journeys and struggles through his mental illness (it's not specified, but I'm fairly certain it's schizophrenia or something of the like. But that doesn't matter, not really, not here, which is another genius bit on Shusterman's part). However! In true Neal Shusterman form, Caden is not just the sum of his mental struggles. 

He's a little hotheaded at times. He likes to draw, and he's good at it. He has a strained relationship with his family but he loves them anyway. He has friends. He has hobbies. He has a whole life outside of his mental illness; it doesn't define him. Can I just say how absolutely awesome that is? We need more of that.

Even though it's basically like this the whole time. 

"Okay, Aimee," you might be saying. "We get that you like the characters. That's cool. But what about the plot? Why should I read this book?"

Allow me to explain to you a thing. 

Okay, actually, I can't explain most of it. Can't, or won't, really, because that would spoil everything and you need to pick it up and experience it for yourself. But full disclosure: this book is absolutely bizarre. Nothing makes sense. Nothing is explained. Everything is muddled into one big heap of dreams and nightmares and reality until you're not sure what's real anymore - and you know what? I like it that way. It perfectly captures Caden's downward spiral and the struggles he faces every day, the things he has to fight through, and I think it's extremely important for us to see it. Every little chapter (small chapters! Yay!) brings new confusion. It's a scene that's constantly changing and becoming more and more bizarre as Caden goes deeper and deeper into life and his sea-faring voyage in general. So, in a sense, there isn't a plot - not when you first look at it. But everything connects, everything is intertwined and you really have to be paying attention to see it but it will punch you right in the gut every time you come to a new realization. And there are lots of those. IT IS BRILLIANT OKAY. 

Also, just in case you're not convinced: Neal Shusterman possesses some of the best writing talent I've ever seen. Like seriously. Human beings should not be allowed to write that well. How do you even. Every second of it is packed with emotional, tight, descriptive writing that flows stunningly and leaves you hurt in the most elegant way possible. It's like being punched repeatedly and skillfully by someone very attractive. 

And let's not forget the drawings! They're done by his son who went through similar experiences and they're absolutely chilling. It really helps to illustrate some of the struggles and emotions Caden goes through and I loved that to pieces, even when it made me weep. Yes, it got to the point where seeing the drawings made me cry. I love, love, love it. Every part of the book is full of experience and emotion that you can't fail to see. 

In short? This is a book that everyone should read. You might not love it as much as me, but I can guarantee that it'll strike you in some way. And probably make you cry.

"The things I feel cannot be put into words, or if they can, the words are in no language anyone can understand. My emotions are talking in tongues." 
- Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman 


  1. *whines* Aimeeeeeee... you're giving me too many books to read! Between you and Cait @ Paperfury I'll be literally drowning in books!

    1. Yessss but you need this one. You actually do. *flails*

    2. *pouts* This is an impossible situation you put me in.

  2. This review has convinced me that I must read Challenger Deep. It sounds absolutely fantastic.

  3. I just added this book to my long list of TBR because it sounds amazing!

    1. Right? And it totally is. So much love.

  4. Okay I was thinking of passing on this one before but now that I've read your review, I WANT THIS NOW. *rushes to kindle*

    Lovely review, Aimee <33

    1. YES YES YES. I would have passed it up if it wasn't a Shusterman book, but dang, you need it.

  5. Okay, okay, okay. I'll read it. I never think I'll love Neal Shusterman as much as I did last time but he's never let me down before. I'll do it. I'll do it. JUST LET ME PUT IT ON HOLD AT THE LIBRARY OKAY?

    1. HE KEEPS GETTING BETTER. It's not even fair. It's on a different level than, say, Unwind, but it's possibly even better.

  6. Well I just started reading Neal Shusterman and I started with Challenger Deep because it was the first book that came up on the library website. Maybe it wasn't the recommended place to start with Shusterman, but I loved his writing style. Even the dream sequences (which I don't usually enjoy reading) were so vividly described that I got into them. There were so many lines that made me just sort of stop reading for a second and stroke the book pages and just...relish the truth in them. So long story short, thanks for intriguing me enough to start reading him. I have a feeling that I will soon have a favorite author besides G.K. Chesterton. :)

    1. P.S. "It's like being punched repeatedly and skillfully by someone very attractive."
      ^^That is the perfect way to put it. I might steal this when I'm in conversations with people and trying to explain why I like emotionally wrenching books. xD


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