Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, HarperCollins, April 2015.
Genre: Realistic/Magical Realism
Good for: Grades 8 and Up
Summary: Fifteen year-old Caden Bosch's life takes place in two different worlds. The first is where he is a crew member aboard a ship bound for the Marianas Trench. The second is where he is a teenager struggling through paranoia and, eventually, schizophrenia.
Thoughts: For me, this was a difficult read. Not because it was boring or a slog to get through, but because of how dark and heartbreaking Caden's story is. It begins with Caden describing his travels aboard the ship along with the crew and their mission: to find treasure by diving into the deepest part of the Marianas Trench called the Challenger Deep. Then the story begins to alternate with Caden in the real world as a teenager who becomes increasingly paranoid at home and school. For instance, he believes that a classmate he barely knows is trying to kill him. His symptoms worsen until his parents have no other choice but to commit him. Most readers will figure out partway through that the "ship" chapters are a metaphor for Caden's time in the psychiatric hospital though until then, the story can make them feel a bit disoriented and confused (much like Caden's state of mind). Illustrations from the author's son, who has dealt with mental illness himself, are interspersed throughout and help to enhance the mood. While the teen appeal isn't obvious (it is quite a heavy, dark read), it's a great one to generate discussion in a book group or classroom.
My Goodreads Rating: 5 out of 5 stars