“Challenger Deep” by Neal Schusterman

BethRecommended by BethChallenger Deep
Caden Bosch lives in two worlds: one contains his family, friends and high school…where he submits to his OCD, pretends to try out for the track team and believes people are trying to kill him. In the other he’s a crewmember on a voyage to the Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest trench. He’s wary of the moody pirate captain and his parrot-who may or may not be planning a mutiny-and of his fellow shipmates as they sail uncharted waters toward unknown dangers. Slowly, Caden’s fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, until his parents have only one choice left. Will Caden make it through safely, or will he founder and sink forever in The Deep?

Challenger Deep gives the reader a multilayered, gritty look at teen mental illness: Caden’s retreat into his own paranoid fantasies is fascinating, full of riddles and surreal scenes. It’s not an easy read; at times it’s hard to separate the two worlds and as the story continues, more and more connections are made between the two. The author based the novel on his son’s diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and psychiatric care and included drawings made while his son was in ‘The Deep’, which brings a very real, human element to the story.

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