Summary: This story is about a teenage boy, Caden, who is experiencing a break from reality and is struggling with mental illness. There are two different worlds that Caden goes between. The first is he is aboard a ship as the ship’s resident artist to document the journey to the Marianas Trench through his drawings. The second world is reality, where he is in the real world, going to high school and struggling with paranoia and schizophrenia there too. When he is aboard the pirate ship it is a metaphor for being on this journey headed toward Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the earth. It seems that he feels he needs to hit rock bottom before he could come back up for air or back to reality. His crew mates aboard the ship are representative of the other patients that are in the ward with him. Sometimes Caden is aware of his surroundings and has rather lucid thoughts. A few times his break is so complete the story unfolds and it is hard to tell where he is and where he is coming from. It is often confusing and that is probably the point.
Shusterman, N. (2015). Challenger Deep. New York: HarperTeen.
Commentary: This book is an interesting story that will have you trying to figure out which world Caden is living in. If anything it will help you to understand the confusion and paranoia that comes with mental illness and schizophrenia
Connections: I would consider this book a Realistic Fiction novel that addresses mental illness, specifically schizophrenia in a very unique way. Caden drifts back and forth between reality (with his friends and family) to another world that he has created for himself abroad a ship headed to the Marianas Trench. In a very impactful way this story sheds light on a very tough topic, helping us see the reality those suffering from mental illness may see. Dealing with these things and the emotional scars they leave are a lot for any person to handle. Your family can help.
Video of Author accepting 2015 NBA Young People's Literature Award for Challenger Deep.