“And you know the darkness beyond despair, just as intimately as you know the soaring heights. Because in this and all universes, there is balance. You can’t have the one without facing the other. And sometimes you think you can take it because the joy is worth the despair, and sometimes you know you can’t take it and how did you ever think you could?”
– Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep
Challenger Deep is not just a work of fiction but a journey into a broken mind. One that many people can relate to, even if you’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness, the deep disparity that is felt resonates with anyone who has ever felt lost, alone, depressed or utterly torn, either directly or as a witness.
It toggles back and forth between the reality that consists of friends and family and the reality that is born in the protagonists’ mind. Although at first mildly confusing eventually it’s as if the reader is a passenger on the ride into schizophrenia. While I’ve never been close to schizophrenia the darkness that envelopes the main character is something eerily familiar, like the creepy next door neighbor that never says a word but just stares into your soul. The illustrations are as lucid as the thoughts of anyone who has experienced being lost in ones own mind. The entire story speaks volumes, and it’s clear that the author has witnessed the destruction of mental illness first hand.
“Dead kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.” – Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep