Reread Challenge: Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

The 2015 Re-Read Challenge
WHEN I First Read: 2011-2012-ish? I’m not sure when exactly, but sometime when I was seventeen.
 
WHAT I Remember: This world between life and death where teenagers go when they die. Lots of really cool original worldbuilding and plot twists. Allie/Mikey OTP for life. Mary Hightower is legitimately terrifying despite (or perhaps because of) looking like a Victorian twelve-year old.
 
WHY I Wanted to Re-Read: This series was one of my all-time favorites when I was in high school. This spring, I reread the Unwind Dystology and finally finished the last book, and I loved it even more than I remembered, and that got me thinking of my past love for this series.
 
HOW I Felt After Re-Reading: I was actually a bit underwhelmed this time around, maybe because I’d already read the Unwind Dystology and it was so good that it raised my standards for Neal Shusterman books, and maybe because I had a basic idea of the plot and couldn’t be surprised this time around. I still really enjoyed it, though! The characters were fun, if a bit less complex than I would have liked, but what really makes all of Neal Shusterman’s books work is the ideas he comes up with and the moral questions he discusses. His books are so creative and intelligent and I’m constantly in awe of his abilities.

WOULD I Re-Read Again: Probably in a few years.

Book Review: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Written by: Neal Shusterman
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Pages: 320, Hardback
Series: Standalone
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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.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.

LetsTalk

Neal Shusterman has been one of my favorite authors since I was in middle school for his clever writing and unique and chilling ideas. Even though Challenger Deep has both of those elements, it is not by any means a typical Neal Shusterman book. (Case in point: this is the only Neal Shusterman *thing* I can think of where Ralphy Sherman does not make an appearance). This book has two intertwined stories that are really one story: we have Caden’s life in the real world, where he deals with the effects of  his mental illness, and we have a different reality that he sees, one that involves an incredibly creepy ship on a quest in the high seas and situations which mirror those he goes through in real life. At first, this can be a little confusing, but after the first few chapters, I understood what was going on and began to enjoy putting the pieces together, especially when it became clear which parts of the storylines corresponded.

I don’t think I’ve read a book where the main character has schizophrenia before. Most of the YA books I’ve read about mental illness focus on depression or anxiety. When we do see psychotic illnesses in YA, it’s usually a parent, and the book explores the effect this has on the child. Or worse, it’s painted as generic-brand “crazy” and used for shock effects and plot devices. So a book like this one, where the author is clearly familiar with the disorder he’s writing about (according to the note at the end, his son, who worked with him on the book, has schizophrenia) and provides both the painful, scary reality and hope for the future, is a book I greatly appreciate.

Challenger Deep isn’t very easy to read. It’s painful, and scary, and there were points where I teared up.  But it’s honest, and well-written. The ship storyline enhances the real-world storyline, and vice-versa. As I’ve said before, it’s different from any Neal Shusterman book I’ve read, but it still feels like a Neal Shusterman book. Above all, it provides hope for people with mental illness and for their families. This is one of my favorite books of the year, and it stayed in my thoughts for a long time after I read it.

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