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Rashika, The Book Owl

So my name is Rashika and I am weird. I read a lot (duh) and I watch a lot of TV. I also like to review. Check out my blog (where I co-blog with awesome people).

Beautifully written book

Challenger Deep - Brendan Shusterman, Neal Shusterman

***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

It would seem that 2015 is the year of all the fantastic books because here I am, finding yet another favorite. This book is gorgeously, frightengly written and it will find a way to creep inside your heart and hold it hostage. I make this book sound scary and believe me, it is.

I don’t read a lot of books that deal with mental illness because admittedly, I am a chicken but this book called to me. I don’t know if it was the cover, or how the synopsis spoke of an adventure to the deep trenches (oh how I adore my adventures!). Whatever it was, I am glad that I decided to bite the bullet and read this, no matter how scared I was, because I would be missing out on a beautiful piece of work.

I know there are many times I’ve said that I don’t know how I to start describing or book or put my feelings down on paper but I don’t think it’s been more true ever before. I keep trying to think of where I want to start talking about the actual book but I feel so insufficient, I don’t think anything I can say is enough for this beautiful gorgeous book and the sensitivity with which Neal dealt with something as delicate as mental illness.

Neal masterfully switches between two different timelines, the ‘real’ one and the ‘imaginary’ one. But really, what is real and imaginary? His use of second person in certain chapters was so gorgeous and almost moved me to tears. It really helped readers see Caden slowly spiraling out of control and it was heartbreaking.

I couldn’t not talk about this book while reading it. I had to stop and read some pieces outloud to my friends just to have someone understand the emotional journey this book was taking me on and how terrifying it was!

Neal makes Caden such a believable character and it’s impossible not to root for him. We see him muddled as a result of the drugs that he is given, we see him when the lines between reality and the imaginary start blurring and we see him coherent. I think what makes Caden so incredibly fantastic to read about is that even within all these various phases we see him in, nothing can strip him of what makes him, him. Which is what makes it all the more heartbreaking to see him in this muddled state where he floats in and out of reality, seeing things that aren’t there.

What also makes Caden’s character so effective is that Neal never attempts to diagnose Caden, he mentions certain illness’ but he never really gives us a confirmed diagnosis, so those of us who are curious cats can rest in peace and continue to enjoy the story but still don't necessarily know what is going on with Caden. I don’t think it’s important to know Caden's diagnosis though. Neal does a fantastic job of showing you what is going on with Caden that giving a name to what is happening to him wouldn’t really change anything.

Neal so fantastically develops the secondary characters as well and what made me especially happy was that Caden’s parents weren't shown as the bad guys! Maybe they could have caught on earlier but it is clear that they only want what is best for their son. They don’t abandon him to deal with this illness on his own. They are there, trying to help him even if they aren’t sure what is the best way of dealing with the situation on hand.

That said, the secondary characters are not a huge part of this novel. The book remains Caden’s story and nothing can change that.

I also absolutely ADORED the parallels between the real and imaginary worlds and it really helped readers see how hard it was for Caden to cling to reality in those moments. We see things in the real world that we had only seen in the imaginary world before and things click. Through the imaginary world, we really get to see aspects of the situation we might not have in the real world and it broke my heart.

I will admit that this book was a little confusing at the beginning but when the parallels made themselves more evident, I really started enjoying the book.  I don't think that everything is meant to make sense right away because we are being immersed within the mind of someone suffering from a mental illness. It's why I never saw my confusion as a bad thing.

This is a skilfully written novel and one I will not be forgetting anytime soon. Neal knows exactly what he is doing. Caden’s journey is beautiful to read about and while I know that this is not a book for everyone, it is still one I would want more people to read because of how important it is. So, if you’re scared, don’t be, there is a good chance you’ll fall head over heels for this gorgeous book, just like I did.