Challenger Deep

by Neal Shusterman and Brendan Shusterman

Short chapters move back and forth between a conventional narrative of teenager Caden... read more

Short chapters move back and forth between a conventional narrative of teenager Caden Bosch’s day-to-day reality and his surreal experiences on board a ship where the Captain and a parrot determined to undermine the Captain’s authority each try to get him on their side. Caden’s increasingly upsetting behavior in real life alarms his friends and family. When his parents have him committed to the psychiatric unit of a hospital, it becomes clear that everyone he encounters on the ship—including the parrot—are based on his fellow patients, doctor, therapist, and others. Flashbacks also show memories that have morphed into experiences on the ship in his mind. When Caden is aware of reality, he is sensitive to others, and he is able to use art as a way to express himself and connect. His improvement is not always steady, but as he gets better in the hospital, through therapy and medication trial and error, his insight and empathy fully emerge. There is the feeling of immersion and resurfacing in this novel that draws readers deeper and deeper into Caden’s confusion and then back out with him. The story is based in part on the experiences of Shusterman’s son, Brendan, who created the spot illustrations giving visual dimension to Caden’s often chaotic state of mind. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2016

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