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Beautiful Books: Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

From the back cover: 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.

Challenger Deep is a difficult book to discuss without potentially spoiling you, but I think I’ve got it figured out.

I’m truly in awe of Neal Shusterman’s creation, and the skill and effort it required of him. Though I figured out what was up early on–the basics, anyway–reading Challenger Deep with that knowledge in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book. On the contrary, it heightened my enjoyment of it, and made me root for Caden all the more desperately.

There’s a lot going on, and the alternating landscapes (or seascapes) may seem confusing at first, but the clues are there. I’m still turning several details and incidents over and over in my head; this is definitely a book I’ll reread to see if I can puzzle those bits out the second time around.

What can I say safely? Caden’s journey is harrowing, and he learns lessons at fifteen that most of us don’t have to learn until much later. The people who love us hurt when we hurt. Nothing is certain except that anything can happen. We can’t control anyone but ourselves…and sometimes, we can’t even do that. Some things are irretrievable.

Most of us get to learn those lessons one at a time, in stages, and often repeatedly. We get to forget them when it’s convenient. Caden doesn’t have that privilege.

Challenger Deep is a book I’ll recommend widely and passionately. It’s the kind of book I want to actually place in your hands. The kind of book that, as you read, I’ll keep asking, “so what part are you at?” and I might even lend you my copy…then wish I hadn’t, because lending it out made me want to reread it.

If you’ve ever felt lost at sea…if you’ve ever been terrified of the voyage back…or had to let someone go…or trust the untrustworthy…or succumbed to a siren’s song…you’ll find something you can share with Caden.

For July 12: Hmmmm…I don’t know. It’s summer, and I have a shelf full of diverse books beckoning. Perhaps, from here on out, I’ll see which of them I’m drawn to next and just surprise everyone.

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