Genre: Young Adult/ Contemporary
Publication Date: 2015
Page Count: 308
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Caden Bosch is a lot things: a teenage boy, friend, brother, son, and resident artist on a ship headed for the deepest depths of the ocean. Caden is finding it difficult to distinguish his real life from his life on the ship. The waters get rougher as Caden journeys through his own mind.
This book was a really raw portrayal of mental illness, perhaps the rawest I have ever read. There is nothing sugar coated about this novel, and that is something I really respect. The writing is beautiful, and the novel is structured in many short chapters which works really well with the style of the novel. Shusterman captures the inside of Caden's mind in a really honest and unique way, and he really captures how the mind can turn on itself.
Here's a quote from the beginning of the novel where Caden describes how he feels.
"The things I feel cannot be put into words, or if they can. the words are in no language anyone can understand. My emotions are talking in tongues."
We basically follow Caden through two storylines: his life on the ship where he struggles for control with the Captain and his parrot, and his real life where he is in a hospital. At first, the narrative is a little confusing and jarring, but it all serves a purpose and you will catch on quick, so don't panic if you find yourself confused at first.
This book really made me think about a number of topics. Part of the reason this book feels so real and raw is because it is real. Shusterman's son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and he helped Shusterman write this novel, and contributed the illustrations for the novel. The illustrations were done by his son while he was in the depths of his own struggle with mental illness, and they are eerie yet strangely beautiful. This book also made me think about the treatments we have for mental illness, as Caden must take "a cocktail" of medicine everyday, and the combinations often change as doctors try to find the right fit. Caden struggled with the side-effects of the medicines just as he struggled with his own mind, and that was really heartbreaking to see. Caden also makes a very profound statement about how mentally ill kids are treated.
"Dead kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug."The ending of this novel was really well done. It was real; it wasn't too happy, it wasn't a fictional ending, it was a real ending that spoke of hope but also remembered the danger and possibility of traveling to the depths again.
I really loved this book. It was difficult and emotional to read at times but it was so well done and so eloquent. If you are looking for a great YA book that tackles mental illness, I highly recommend this one.