Challenger Deep
by Neal Shusterman and Brendan Shusterman

Overview -

National Book Award and Golden Kite Award Winner

A captivating novel about mental illness that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.  Read more...

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More About Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman; Brendan Shusterman

National Book Award and Golden Kite Award Winner

A captivating novel about mental illness that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.

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.

Challenger Deep is a deeply powerful and personal novel from one of today's most admired writers for teens. Laurie Halse Anderson, award-winning author of Speak, calls Challenger Deep "a brilliant journey across the dark sea of the mind; frightening, sensitive, and powerful. Simply extraordinary."

  • ISBN-13: 9780061134111
  • ISBN-10: 0061134112
  • Publisher: Harper Teen
  • Publish Date: April 2015
  • Page Count: 320
  • Reading Level: Ages 14-17
  • Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds

Related Categories

Books > > Social Themes - Depression
Books > > Boys & Men

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-02-16
  • Reviewer: Staff

With lyricism and potent insight, Shusterman (Unwind) traces the schizophrenic descent and return of Caden Bosch, an intelligent 15-year-old and a gifted artist. His internal narratives are sometimes dreams, sometimes hallucinations, and sometimes undefinable, dominated by a galleon and its captain, sailing with an enormous, sullen crew to the deepest point of the Marianas Trench, Challenger Deep. The metaphor’s not exactly subtle, but Shusterman finds unexpected resonance in its details—the tarry seams in the wood, the human ballast. External reality still registers: people around Caden run the gamut of humor, scolding, threats, and avoidance to pressure him into changing behavior he no longer controls. Shusterman has mined personal experience of mental illness with his son Brendan, whose line drawings mirror Caden’s fragmentation in swirling lines eerily reminiscent of Van Gogh. It’s a powerful collaboration, and crucial to the novel’s credibility. As Caden says, “There is no such thing as a ‘correct’ diagnosis,” and though his story doesn’t necessarily represent a “typical” experience of mental illness, it turns symptoms into lived reality in ways readers won’t easily forget. Ages 14–up. Agent: Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Apr.)

BookPage Reviews

Plumbing the depths

BookPage Teen Top Pick, May 2015

Characters with a mental illness often find a place in literature, but they are infrequently the main character and seldom found in young adult novels. Although teens with psychoses garner plenty of attention in the news today, the fictional world is still catching up. Award-winning author Neal Shusterman takes the topic head-on in his new book, Challenger Deep, and does so with sincerity.

In his own voice, Caden Bosch tells the story of how he slowly loses his connection to reality and how his world starts to look very different from everyone else’s. The chapters fluctuate between “real time”—going to school, talking to his parents, hanging with his friends—and “ship time,” when he finds himself on a galleon at sea that seems to be his waking dream. As Caden spirals further into mental illness, the lines between these two realities blur and merge seamlessly, pulling readers ever closer to the sensation of a psychotic episode.

Shusterman’s personal experience of his own teenage son’s mental illness lends a powerful and genuine tone to the book. His son, Brendan Shusterman, penned the illustrations for the story, many of which were drawn during the worst of his illness.

Challenger Deep is difficult to read at times—as it should be—as readers are drawn into the depths along with Caden, but it is also extremely compelling and hard to resist. Shusterman is a master storyteller and it shows.


Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through eighth level Catholic school.

This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews