“I used to be afraid of dying. Now I’m afraid of not living. There’s a difference. We go through life planning for a future, but sometimes that future never comes.”
This was one of the hardest books I've ever read. I spent about three weeks on it, because I had to keep putting it down - the emotions of this book kept drowning me. I will be honest - if I didn't read other, more light hearted books while I was also reading this, I'd be plunged into the pits of the deepest depression by now.
"Schizophrenia, schizoaffective, bipolar I, bipolar II, major depression, psychotic depression, obsessive/compulsive, and on, and on. The labels mean nothing, because no two cases are ever exactly alike. Everyone presents differently, and responds to meds differently, and no prognosis can truly be predicted."
The premise of the book, the idea and the message were fantastic. I also really recommend reading the footnote by the author, Neil Shusterman, as he explains how the topic of his book and his family are intimately related. That brought a whole new level of depth to the book.
So why only 3.5 stars? The book was great - there were so many amazing and quotable moments, if this wasn't a library copy, I'd have been highlighting the crap out of it. But where it was full of emotions it lacked in plot (for me at least). I found myself losing attention at the metaphoric parts and wanting to get to the real life parts. Later on in the book they merge and connect, but prior to that I have to admit, it was a bit confusing.
“You see demons in the eyes of the world, and the world sees a bottomless pit in yours.”
The book also deals with prejudice and wrong accusations. How people see somebody who is different and immediately assume that person is a drug addict. And when they realize what's happening it is often way too late.
I believe that this book will help many people - it will show them that they are not alone, that no matter what they might be feeling, no matter how ludicrous it may be, there is somebody out there who had felt the same way, or still is.
But I also believe that this book might trigger many others. The emotions in the book were so real you can feel them dripping off the pages. Caden's fears and his paranoia are contagious, and if you are not careful enough it will get you. It didn't help that I am already a hypochondriac and an ocd (self diagnosed, of course, but these things you just know). I kept thinking - am I going to spiral down one day? I have some symptoms, so is it a challenger deep for me too?
Nobody ever likes to feel powerless, but when I read Challenger Deep I felt it - inability to help Caden, or others like Caiden - because only they can help themselves. Sure, doctors and nurses and medicine stabilize people, but in the end the journey is only that person's to take.
Challenger Deep also gave me a new perspective on brain altering medicine. I still don't exactly know how I feel about it, but I do realize now that sometimes that is all doctors have - their best is just a guess, and sometimes that guess works and sometimes it doesn't.
“The fear of not living is a deep, abiding dread of watching your own potential decompose into irredeemable disappointment when 'should be' gets crushed by what is. Sometimes I think it would be easier to die than to face that, because 'what could have been' is much more highly regarded than 'what should have been.' Dead kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.”
I'd definitely recommend this book, but I will also say - be ready, this is not the easiest journey you will ever read through. And it will stay with you forever.