I've always been a believer in the idea that the stories of others can be life changing. Whether you relate to the story or not, other perspectives can potentially change your outlook on life. I, as a person who has no first or second-hand experience with mental illness, feel that way about Neal Shusterman's book Challenger Deep. Challenger Deep tells the story of a 15-year-old boy by the name of Caden Bosch, who is unknowingly struggling with schizophrenia. The disorder is new to him, and he has no idea what is happening to him. In his head, he is on a boat headed for Challenger Deep, and everything that goes on there corresponds with reality. He is soon admitted into a psych ward, where he meets several people that impact his life and continues his journey to Challenger Deep. The book is very metaphorical, which only serves to deepen the beauty of Caden’s journey. His life on deck mirrors his real life in ways that lend insight into the way Caden feels about certain things that go on, that allow us to understand his mind more than we ever could without that world. The drawings that were placed within the book, illustrated by the author’s schizophrenic son, also provide a way for the reader to see his inner workings with the added heartbreaking knowledge that the drawings were not just something the author made up but raw emotion penned by someone with first-hand experience. I also really appreciated the fact that Caden’s relationships were not sugar coated. The bonds he forged were not forced the way they are in some novels, but came into existence naturally. Not all of them survived, which brought a refreshing yet jarring sense of reality to the novel. The chapters were short and changed drastically from chapter to chapter, which served to depict the nature of the disorder very well. The beginning confused me, but that changed as the story went on. The ending also did not answer many questions I had about the other characters. I recommend this both for people who have went through similar to trials and tribulations with their own mental illnesses and people like me who just want to learn from other people's stories. This book did very well in educating readers on mental illness as well as removing stigmas by allowing us to traverse the mind of Caden Bosch.
Warnings: Just some bad language really. It's not common, and even if that bothers you I still suggest you read this book.