YA Book Club recap by Kara Eng, Grade 11

Summary:

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.

For May, which happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month, the YA Book Club read Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. Challenger Deep follows Caden Bosch’s first symptoms with schizophrenia. YA Book Club talked about how YA novels discussing mental illnesses are pretty uncommon. It gave a detailed and emotional account of one teenage boy’s experience, but also made sure that the individuality of his illness was emphasized. We talked about how, even though many of us did not have first hand experience with or awareness of mental illness, Challenger Deep offers a well-written depictio thnat educates readers. Even if Caden’s story seemed wholly alien, we were still able to understand some of his emotions and root for him when he was going through tough times. The different characters made sure that readers would not use Caden’s experience to generalize all mental illnesses. Many of us thought that the narration style did a good job of paralleling Caden’s story. While some parts were confusing, the reader’s journey was similar to Caden’s, who did not know what was happening to him either. YA Book Club also discussed villains, which happened to also be a big part of the story. Many of us disagreed on the identity of Caden’s adversary, but generally agreed that Caden dealt with his foes gracefully and maturely. Overall, YA Book Club said that Challenger Deep was a unique novel that offered a lot of insight on a difficult and often stigmatized topic, giving it an average rating of 4.3/5 stars.

 

This meeting was moderated by Teen Advisory Board member Kara Eng, Grade 11.

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