Single Sundays: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Challenger Deep (from 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 behavior.

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.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.


Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mental Health
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook


Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve never read a Neal Shusterman novel–never even heard of the guy either–but apparently he is “one of today’s most admired writers for teens”. So that both excited and scared me when it came to this novel. Excited me because he is (apparently) known for writing captivating stories; scared me because promotional hype can easily heighten expectations and leave you devastated.

I really had no idea what to expect. I don’t even know how I found out about this book. And when I started listening to the audiobook, I didn’t read the synopsis so I was going in completely blind.

The Concept:

I think if I had read the synopsis before starting the audiobook, I would haven’t felt as lost as I was at the start. See, all I remembered when I started this book was the part about the ship. I missed the rest of the synopsis so I was a little confused as to why were were jumping back and forth between Caden’s life at home and his life on the ship.

This is a book about mental illness and I think it is important to know that going in so you can get into the right mindset. Because honestly, I was confused until I figured that out. That’s when you can start putting things together and figure out what Caden is describing and how he is feeling.

The Plot:

As I said above, the plot shifts a lot at the start and it can be a little overwhelming. But once you start to delve a little deeper, you start to see how everything is working together.

I love stories that have you continuously working it out in your head. Honestly, I would love to study this book in school and dissect every moment of it because it is beautifully crafted. It’s one of those books that you really don’t appreciate until you finish it and see how everything blends together.

The Characters:

I think everyone can relate to Caden’s story in one way or another. Whether you know someone who suffers from a mental health condition or you yourself have one, you’ll connect with this story in some capacity.

This book does a fabulous job of delivering Caden’s thoughts and reasonings in a way readers can understand and experience for themselves. There’s a part where Caden switches to the 2nd person POV and you really get to put yourself in his shoes and see what it feels like to be in his current situation. I’ve never had that connection to a character that I didn’t share some trait with and it was a refreshing experience for me as a reader.

The Romance:

I’ve read a lot of really great YA contemporaries in the last year that focus on mental health but they’ve all been a little hindered by the romance. So I was really happy when this book never took that turn. This story is all about Caden’s journey and it never shies away from that.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m very glad I read this as an audiobook: the production was fabulous! Every character had their own unique voice and that made it such a treat to listen to. It also forced me to pay attention too (not that I don’t normally pay attention to my audiobooks–I just mean I paid particular attention to remembering the story) so that I could make sure I knew what was happening and why that particular chapter was important to remember later on. It was like listening to a mystery that you only get clues to along the way but you can’t look backwards. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book captured my full attention and the audiobook experience was very immersive.

My Rating: 5/5


Easily one of the best books I’ve read about mental health in the YA genre. Ever.

Read if You Like: books about mental health, books with allusions
Avoid if You: want a romance, can’t handle shifting narration

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