Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

In Challenger Deep, written by Neal Shusterman, Caden Bosch is a teenager who struggles with mental illness. This story is told from two perspectives where it switches from his point-of-view of his life and his fantasy world. In his fantasy world, he has become a part of a voyage with a man who calls himself the Captain and his parrot to explore the Marianas Trench, Challenger Deep, to find the bottom of it.

In Caden’s daily life, he begins to show signs of his mental illness. His friends, family, and teachers begin to notice his anxiety, his random thoughts, and his new hobby of pacing and walking. At first, they shrug it off thinking it’s only a phase, but everyday Caden falls deeper in his mental illness.

Caden’s story is an emotional one about a boy going through his first mental breakdown. There were some funny moments, but it’s a sad story of a teen going through a mental illness.

Although it took me some time to read this book, I highly recommend reading it. This book gave me some new insight about how people with mental illnesses feel. The author did a fantastic job in capturing Caden’s emotions and of his family and friends emotions.

There are some curse words ( no F-bombs though) and no sexual content (Yay for those who don’t want to read smut!). This book has little to no romance since it mainly focuses more on the friendships of Caden and his recovery from his mental breakdown.

This is a good book for older teens, I don’t recommend kids ages 13 and younger reading this because of the mature themes. Also, it can be a bit confusing because it’s from Caden’s perspective, but it’s entertaining.

*Spoiler alert* In one scene, some of the patients talk about what happened to them before they were hospitalized. The author doesn’t go into detail, but it’s a little disturbing. 

-Ash A.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Mr. Lincoln’s Drummer by G. Clifton Wisler

lincolndrummer_cliftonwislerThe American Civil War took place from 1861 to 1865 and pit the Northern and Southern States against each other, as shown in this novel by G. Clifton Wisler.  Boys from the age of 13 were enlisted to make money for their families.  There were a lot of economic problems at the time for the United States (who, due to the war, weren’t that amalgamated).  People were struggling to survive, and many barely even had enough food.   Since the war was to abolish slavery and the story is told from the side of Mr. Lincoln, there is little racism.  Willie, a young boy of the age of 11, had been working in his family’s business his entire life: mending clothes (mostly army uniforms).  But, he was always interested in war.  Willie didn’t realize any of the devastation and blood many encounter.

Much to Willie’s delight, an army general comes to town offering a modest sum of money for men to enlist in his regiment.  The general vaguely recognizes Willie and calls him over.  The man taught Willie a few of the drum patterns for the army calls some time ago and was impressed with Willie’s talent. The general gives Willie a couple coins.  As Willie walks home, he thinks what it would be like to be in the army, being a drummer.  When he arrives home and shows his mother the coins and asks, “Can I enlist to be a drummer?”  There is silence.

“Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, I thought, accurately summarizes the reaction by Willie’s mother to his “whimsical” question.  They both disagree. They need a third opinion. Waiting, painstakingly, for his father to come home, Willie dreams of the Army and of the drumbeat of his own, courageous instrument. Then, after hours of discussion between his mother, father, and himself, the family settle on a plan whereby father and son would enlist together under the condition they must stick together.

However, when the father and son exit the train from their town, they are separated.  Willie has to live his life as a drummer mostly by himself.  Throughout the story, Willie sees death of his own friends, converses with a Reb, and takes a fall himself.  At the end of the story however, awarded with pride, I thought of the song “Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban because that is how Willie feels. He doesn’t believe himself to be a hero.  He thinks that his parents, the general, and his friends pushed him too hard, and he failed.  I would rate this book a 6/10 for its lack of power.  The story itself was good, but I wasn’t drawn in.

Maya S., 7th Grade