Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Posted April 23, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep

by Neal Shusterman

Publisher: HarperCollins on April 21, 2015
Genre: Contemporary
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on 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 behaviour.

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.


I both love the fact that Challenger Deep exists, and I hated reading it.

Let me back up.

This book is so. Incredibly! Well! Done!

I cannot emphasize enough the skill of Neal Shusterman here as a writer, and how effortlessly he flows between real/not real while creating an engaging world with relatable characters and a realistic view on the state of mental health facilities.  I have no, absolutely no, criticisms about Challenger Deep as a work of art.  Because it abso-freaking-lutely is a work of art.

It’s also one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read.

Not in a sense of boredom, or writing style, or theme or language.  The voice gave me so much anxiety – about the same amount as Turtles All the Way Down, which is another excellent YA book about mental health.  While Turtles was #OwnVoices… Challenger Deep is once-removed and was written with great respect and deference to Shusterman’s son.  It still has the feel of an #OwnVoices novel, and is … just … so wonderfully created.  I know there’s a lot of noise in the world about not-#OwnVoices writers tackling various issues (whether that’s race, mental health, or gender identity).  Many of them are terrible and should be criticised.  Challenger Deep is incredible.

Challenger Deep is the type of book to be read slowly and carefully, because the lines between worlds blur… sometimes even in the same sentence.  The beginning is a bit chaotic (as it should be, and this made sense to me later on) but once I got into the flow of things I began identifying the parallels a bit better between Caden’s world and the outside world.  I loved Caden – I cared immediately about what happened to him.  I wanted him to succeed and the waves of his reconciliation and recovery – so well-aligned with real life – put me through a rollercoaster of emotions.

Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of Shusterman’s, I cannot recommend Challenger Deep enough.  It’s not one of those entertaining books.  It’s very heavy, but I also think in many ways it’s important and eye-opening.  This one is definitely worth your time.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2


Can you recommend any other EXCELLENT mental health rep novels?  I’m always on the lookout for really good rep, the type of rep that makes you feel EVERYTHING, so if you have any good ones, let me know in the comments!

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2 responses to “Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

    • Amber

      It was so powerful and so difficult to read in the best way. I hope you enjoy your reread as much (if not more) than the first time!