Spotlight Sunday is hosted by Closet Readers!
CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman was a book I didn’t expect to like. I’d previously stayed away from his books due to the appropriation and problematic nature of his UNWIND series. But this book hit me in the best of ways.
Deads kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.
So many times I have picked up a YA book about mental illness and realize with horror that the books is romanticizing it, but Neal Shusterman has done an excellent job showcasing mental illness as it actually is: painful and embarrassing. He shows not only the descent of Caden’s mental state but also the start of the uprise and all the messy moments in between. From lashing out, to disturbed cognitive behavior, to hurt friends and family, to vomiting because sometimes the medicine just makes you do that.
As someone who has been hospitalized due to mental illness, who has suffered through that mental collapse, I can honestly say that I’ve never read a book that got it this right.
I was I could write a review that would do this book justice, but I can’t. There’s no words to describe how much I loved and appreciated every moment of this text.
I will say to keep an eye out for the drawings in the book. They were drawn by Brandon Shusterman, the author’s son, during his own hospitalization!
This was the first book I ever read that showcased my mental illness in the right way. While there are problematic elements to the story (particularly around the mentioning of a fat character), it is also the first book that I can say “This is what happened to me. This is what it feels like.”