★★★★/★★★★★ Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman.
“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?”
This review will be filled with quotes, because almost everything in this book was quote-worthy. That is how beautiful it is. I will gush about it constantly, this book feels at par with We Are The Ants, and I loved that one. It will be one that keeps coming to mind over and over again.
This is one of the few stories I’ve read, were the portrayal of mental illness is done so brilliantly that I can find no fault. It shows that although mental illness cannot be cured, it can be managed. This is the story of a boy’s descent into schizophrenia, and his dabbles between the reality of it all, and the muddled allegories presented to him during his medicine and “bouts of insanity.”
“And when the abyss looks into you – and it will – may you look back unflinching.”
When I read this quote, I knew that the connection that I barely need or seek from a book had been achieved. It felt like an inspiration had been given to me, to stare back at the monster that may haunt my nightmares, and be not afraid. And for this, I could do nothing but recommend it to as many people as I can. People that duffer from mental illnesses are often told that they are weak for being ill, that it is their fault they are the way they are, that no one will ever love them because they cannot love themselves, this quote feels strong enough to give people the valor to start digging themselves out of the whole that varied and differing reasons have dug for them. At least as much as I’ve read in Young-Adult literature.
“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.” and “Seeing monsters everywhere and realizing there aren’t enough slingshots in the world to get rid of them.”
One of the strongest things, which I had issues with in Thirteen Reasons Why and All the Bright Places, was that mental illness is not romanticized. This story tells it like it is, without presuming that as soon as someone finds love, their illness will be cured, or how their disorder makes them all quirky and adorable, or how a suicide is the pinnacle of leaving earth. I like that, it makes it real, it is not eliminating the struggles which people have to endure in order to provide romance to a targeted audience. (notice that these books are targeted at teens that suffer the illnesses, but they are usually misrepresented, and their illness becomes the plot around romance)
“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 live in America, and in this country, mental illness is not treated as the serious issue that deserves better medical coverage. And I know that is a gross generalization by saying that our mass-school shootings speak for themselves when it comes to this subject, but it is an affront to human decency to not provide any help for people that have a mental illness. Our media also has a big part in wrongly portraying it, mostly using it to present misguided and stereotypical views, which affects the culture, and how everyday people see it. I had a person once tell me that depression was just someone feeling down for a bit, and all they need to do is find a partner and that then they would be fine. I never stayed close to that person again to hear such idiocy come out of their mouth.
There is also the very issue that if someone commits suicide, they are put in a pedestal, they are shown as tragic heroes, they are shown as spokespersons for anti-bulling campaigns, and although I see why it is important to highlight how bullying is a huge issue within our community, they also suffered the after effects of it via a mental illness. But no one talks about it, they choose to ignore it, in the hopes that if no one mentions it, it will go away. But it never does.
“We always look for the signs we missed when something goes wrong. We become like detectives trying to solve a murder, because maybe if we uncover the clues, it gives us some control. Sure, we can’t change what happened, but if we can string together enough clues, we can prove that whatever nightmare has befallen us, we could have stopped it, if only we had been smart enough. I suppose it’s better to believe in our own stupidity than it is to believe that all the clues in the world wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
All I have to say is thank you Neal Shusterman, this book gave the emotional ride that few books have ever done. This is one I will read and read over and over, until I am probably dead.
“To name her is to sink her,” he told me. “That which we name takes greater weight than the sea it displaces. Ask any shipwreck.”“I know exactly what he means. I had overheard Poirot talking to my parents. He was using words like “psychosis” and “schizophrenic”. Words that people feel they have to whisper, or not repeat at all. The Mental-Illness-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
Once you make a Harry Potter reference that stands on its own, you’ve got me.