Media Seasons

Challenger Deep is Worth the Trip


When I travel to support my son’s athletic events, I always pack a book, so I selected the new National Book Award for Young People title Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. Already a favorite author of mine, I often recommend his titles to young readers in my roles as a middle school library media teacher.

Little did I realize that the new Ocean Breeze track and field facility on Staten Island, with its gorgeous view of the waterways, was the perfect backdrop for reading this particular title.  Taking breaks as I read about Caden Bosch and the crew, headed to the Marianas Trench, included moments to break from reading the short spurt chapters packed with fitting poetic language, to contemplate as I watched cargo ships going in and out of New York City harbor.

Of course, I was also there to watch some of the most focused high school athletes in the country hit their PB’s and maybe even snare a bigger indoor record or best mark of the season.  The contrast between these successful teens and the increasing numbers who struggle with mental health concerns was enough to wind me as a lap around the track would have.

The backstory to the illustrations are even more amazing, as they are authentic artwork created by the author’s son, who has worked through mental health issues that greatly inspired the work.  I’m not finished with the book yet, but the fictional Caden and his family reflect how challenging the race is for families as a teen or young adult in their intimate nuclear family tries to overcome the deep.  I hope that more of this honest art can continue to offer stories to help young readers find perseverance and resiliency as they meet their own struggles in life.

As a library media teacher, I applaud Shusterman for being brave enough to offer a new story, as well as paths to securing support.