Challenger Deep

My family and I recently took a little trip to L.A. While the intent of the visit was Universal Studios (which was very cool), we also stopped at some watch shops, quilt shops… and book shops.

They were independently owned book stores that my mom researched before going, like Book Soup or The Last Bookstore. At Book Soup, I picked up a book called Challenger Deep. And I believe it could very well be one of my favorite stand-alone books I’ve ever read.

 

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Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Basic Summary- Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

 

My Thoughts- That’s the summary that the book came with, and I really liked it. A summary that gives a little more away is that Caden has a mess of mental illnesses, most prominently schizophrenia.  Neal Shusterman did a masterful job of showing a thought process eerily similar to my own in a way that is both poetic, but also deeply connects you to the character. Neal managed to make me feel like Caden, which is a connection that the neurodivergent community desperately needs.

What Can Authors Learn From This Book?

Tackle the Big Stuff

I’m not going to lie to you. Challenger Deep goes deep. Mental illness is not a joke, and while this book has its humorous lines, it knows that. They cover topics as simple as wanting your family to understand you, to the issue of suicide. This is a difficult book to read from that standpoint.

But it proves an important point. These are the things that people need to be reading. Whether it’s to know that they are understood by the world, or to show someone how to understand another person, these are topics that have been ignored by far too long for the majority of the world.

Schizophrenia is a joke, depression is misunderstood, bipolar is taboo. This book tears that all down and proves that it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be that way. Those are the kinds of strong, world-changing points that I wish every piece of writing to make.

I Understand Nothing

 

On a less deep note, this book makes zero sense about 90% of the time. As a reader, you have to just sort of accept the fact that it will make sense eventually. And when it does, it’s both mind-blowing and poignant. But my complete lack of understanding–while overdone for most books–urged me to keep reading.

Mystery, mystery, mystery. It’s not an action scene that makes someone keep reading; it’s the wondering if the character will survive it. It isn’t the romance that keeps a person involved in the story; it’s the burning desire to know if it works out in the end. Mystery is one of your most valuable tools. Learn how to wield it wisely.

 

Overall

 

This book was amazing. It could be a struggle for some readers, either from the dark tones or the sometimes confusing plot. (Or the slightly slow beginning, I’ll admit.) But it’s a thrilling ride that opened my eyes in many ways, and proves that no one is beyond being understood, and everyone is capable of being saved from drowning.

Book Blab – Ink & Bone

Book Blab – Ink & Bone

I’ve had this book on my wishlist for quite some time. What book lover wouldn’t adore it? The title is riveting, and the cover alone could give me shivers of ecstasy.

 

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Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine

 

Basic Summary- The Great Library (*more happy shivers*) controls everything in this world. It is forbidden to own books. In fact, everything is centered around books, which are gathered up and taken care of by Scholars. Jess, the loveable MC, comes from a family of book smugglers. They sell books to anyone with enough money, from Inklickers (who eat books to prove they own them) to Burners (who burn books to prove the Great Library is evil and that human lives matter more than books.) Jess is chosen to become a worker of the Great Library, but learns that there is much more to his world–and his heart–than smuggling books.

 

My Thoughts- That summary, of course, does nothing to really capture this book. It’s a stunning work, and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel. (Paper & Fire, another fantastic title.) Caine writes quite unlike anyone else I’ve read before, which made reading Ink & Bone an experience not just for the riveting characters, world-building, and story arcs, but for the writing itself.

 

What Can Authors Learn From This Book?

 

Don’t Stress So Much About Your MC… But Do Stress About the Minors 

Jess is nearly perfect MC. Not because the person himself is perfect. He has plenty of faults, all of which work perfectly in the story. But he doesn’t have a show-stealing personality or center-of-the-attention-all-the-time actions.

Minor characters had a major role in Ink & Bone. Each of them was distinct and unique, and had as much say in how the plot progressed as Jess himself. That’s not to say that Jess was replaceable. He was very much the main character, and not just a narrator. (I’m looking at you, Nick of The Great Gatsby.)

But likewise, the minor characters weren’t replaceable. This is an aspect of writing that is much glossed over. I’m so happy with Rachel Caine’s portrayal of all her characters.

 

Pacing? What Pacing? 

Caine’s pacing was unlike anything I’ve seen before. At first, it irritated me about. She flew by what felt like weeks of important world building as Jess and the other Postulants studied. Then I realized that it was irrelevant to her true plot, which then blew me away.

Caine spat in the face of most pacing I’ve seen, and did so pretty eloquently. I stand in awe. I’m still struggling to see how I can apply this to my own writing (and horrible pacing) but I believe that the ultimate lesson is play around. Don’t stick to a strict formula. You might find something amazing.

 

Overall

This is bloody fantastic. I loved every word, and tried to savor it as long as I could. (A struggle for a speed-reader. And a reader who has the tendency to fly by multiple pages without comprehending a word when the plot thickens.) I absolutely loved Ink & Bone and look forward to the sequel.

 

Have a favorite book you’ve received this Christmas? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!