I have loved Neal Shusterman since my colleague told me to read Unwind, one of his many incredible series that my students have since devoured. While I had heard of Challenger Deep it was not until I saw it win the National Book award for YA that I knew I needed to read it. So for the past 4 days I have. I have drudged through the pages trying to make sense of it all and slowly, ever so slowly, has the story of a boy and his mental illness dragged me in. This is a hard story to love for me, yet one that I am so thankful that I have read. One that I will book talk to my students in the hope that one kid will find solace within the pages. But it is a hard book to read, it is confusing at times, and yet it all makes sense.
Challenger Deep is an unflinching, behind the scenes look at what mental illness may be like for a child. Based on Shusterman’s experiences through his son, it is a deep look at what can happen when the confines of reality start to change. It is hard. It is terrifying. It is beautiful.
This book is not inappropriate but it is probably better geared for older students. Students who have stamina to read through the confusing parts and understand that they are confusing for a reason. Students who, like me in the past 4 days, had to read on to see what would happen and will feel deeply satisfied yet still pondering the story after it ends. That is who this book is for.