Book Review: Challenger Deep

By Ella Sran, 6th Grade

Caden Bosch is torn between two worlds. He’s either an insecure high schooler with imaginary problems, or a lost young man at sea travelling to the deepest point on Earth.

Caden has two lives: In his real life, he’s an timorous teenager with a passion for computers and drawing. He has a innocent, unassuming, sometimes annoying little sister, and his tired, anxious mother and father.  His friends are into computers and gaming, just like him. He has a normal life.  A careless life--except for worries that a kid who's never spoken to him is going to kill him with a knife he’s never seen.

His other (imaginary, but not to him) life is one of adventure. One of the vast ocean and a ship with a courageous captain. A captain with a wise parrot, no knowledge on how to read, and a sometimes ferocious and sometimes gentle attitude. With a beautiful, live wooden mermaid as the head of the ship that needs Caden’s hugs to keep her warm from the freezing spray of the sea, who holds Caden in her strong wooden arms above the deep water. With a navigator that speaks brilliant nonsense. With a crew that ignores each other and keeps to themselves. With a quest that the whole crew is set to perform...get to the deepest point in the world--Challenger Deep.

There are many important key points in the book you need to know to understand Caden. Family is always a key point in books, and at this time Caden needs family most. They help him get through what’s happening. Drawing, I think, is an escape for him. He can scribble down his thoughts and feelings. They don't have to be neat. They don’t have to be beautiful. But here, he is free. Something that really got to me was him and the track team. He says he’s on the team just to get his parents to stop pestering him...but he really just goes on long, refreshing walks in the rain, just….contemplating. Thinking, and wondering what’s happening to him.

This book really got to me. It makes me wonder what it must have been like for his family and friends while Caden was going through this. And although I've never heard of Neal Shusterman before, he is an amazing writer, and he really grips you and pulls you into the pages, into the story. He makes you wonder about his characters, and think deeply about the plot.

But the really amazing part that I’ll remember forever is that what Caden was going through isn’t fiction. It’s real. With this disease, you can take your own life if you can’t fight your way out of the abyss, and into the light. One of the author’s friends took his own life 20 years ago because he couldn't handle it. He couldn’t handle the darkness. But the author’s son fought it, and he returned to the light. That’s what the story is based off of. Mr. Shusterman wants to show people that they have hope, and that they can fight their way out of the nightmare.

You’ll find that when you travel down to the deep, it’s hard to swim back up. But if you find your piece of sky….nothing can stop you from getting back to the top.

Ella's favorite books: Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan; The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate; and all of the Harry Potter books.