Caden Bosch is a young man suffering from mental illness. In one world, he’s a brilliant high school student and a natural athlete who’s starting to display some unusual behavior. In his mind, he’s actually an artist-in-residence on an exploration ship heading towards the deepest point on Earth. As Caden quickly descends into his illusions, his mind becomes split between worlds, unable to tell which is real.
As I read this book I noticed that a lot of the “Challenger Deep” narratives didn’t seem to make sense to me, which was probably the author’s intention. For people suffering from mental illness, their hallucinations or visions would probably only seem reasonable to themselves. Even though it was a struggle to follow everything that went on in this alternate reality, I greatly appreciated having the chance to peek inside Caden’s mind. By the end of the book I was actually rooting for him, hoping he could overcome the struggle of his split worlds.
One of my favorite parts, though, was the way that Mr. Shusterman seemed to humanize those with mental illness. By having Caden stay in a home with others in the same condition, he changed from a mentally ill kid to just one of many mentally ill kids. I think it’s important to remember that even though we might not personally know someone in this condition, there’s a small but significant slice of the population who battle with mental illness. This book is sensitive yet powerful, and it will cause you to take another look at the world around you.