Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman...

How I Heard About It:  While at NCTE15 here in Minneapolis this title was brought up and talked about several times.  I believe it had just won the National Book Award.  I added it to my TBR list.  While browsing my 3M Cloud Library app, I came across the title and downloaded it.  I was curious and interested to read the book since I knew nothing about it; except for the award it received.  

What It Is About:  This is a bit difficult to do because I had a hard time truly understanding this story.  Caden is a sophomore in high school and suffering from mental illness.  Part of his world is his family, friends, and school.  The other part is in his mind as he travels to the most center point of planet Earth on a ship called Challenger Deep.  He tries to keep these two worlds separate but it becomes more and more difficult.  As life in his "real" world gets incredibly complicated, his parents admit him to a hospital where he can hopefully get the help he needs.  Even while in the hospital, Caden continues to travel on Challenger Deep with an odd and unique cast of characters.  As he spends his days at the hospital he forms different relationships with some of the other patients.  

What I Thought Of It:  The beginning of this book completely confused me.  I also had a friend at school that was reading it at the same time and we both struggled with the beginning.  Once I read a review that stated Caden was suffering from mental illness, the story started to make more sense.  The plot goes back and forth between real life and the life that Caden was creating in his mind.  I enjoyed the "realistic fiction" aspects of the story, but had a hard time connecting to the voyage he was taking on the ship.  My friend abandoned the book, but I wanted to finish it.  I'm glad I did, but overall it didn't touch me the way it did with so many other readers.  

Who Should Read It:  The book is targeted toward the high school audience.  Maybe they will have an easier time truly understanding the plot.  For some reason it was a challenge for me.  I also think there will be many adult readers that will find great satisfaction with the story.  The author's writing is excellent and the story is different from other "mental illness" story lines.  I can see why it won the National Book Award because of the writing and content in the novel.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

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