When I started Challenger Deep, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it because it was so incredibly weird. As the story progressed, things became a lot clearer and I began to be really immersed in the story.
At first, I found the writing style disorientating. At times Shusterman switches between first person and second person narrative. I assumed this was intentional, perhaps Caden was going through a sort of dissociation from his surroundings? Nevertheless, I think Challenger Deep is a powerful novel dealing with mental illness from the perspective of someone who has it – and the authors note clarifies that a lot of it was influenced by his son, and the pictures were his sons too. I think this adds a whole new level of realism to the story, and I think it’s a fantastic novel that will provide comfort to those suffer from a mental illness and help others to empathize – Neal Shusterman says this was his intention in writing the novel, too.
Caden is a fantastic character and you can really see his development throughout the novel. He learns to accept his diagnosis but is aware it’s an integral part of him — the Captain will always be there, tempting him. I thought it was really well done that Caden’s time on the ship was a reflection of real life events, and at times the two merged. It was really interesting to read, if not a little disorientating.
Nevertheless, a fantastic book that explores a complex topic that I highly recommend.
I would recommend to fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Firstly, because both have a unique POV (Haddon’s from the perspective of a young boy with asperger syndrome, and Challenger Deep from a teen with schizophrenia), and because the drawings in both add a personal touch. They’re both informative and help you empathize, but also very much character driven.