CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman

A powerful and captivating novel about mental illness, Challenger Deep is a tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.

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 behaviour.

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. 


Title : Challenger Deep
Author : Neal Shusterman
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Walker Books
Release Date : August 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

3.5 stars

I started this a while ago and picked it back up today, powering through to the end. This was an ambitious and brave project by Neal Shusterman as it plunged the reader from page one into a teen’s mind amidst a psychotic episode as he experienced severe mental illness.

The protagonist, Caden thought he was on a ship with a mundane task as part of the crew, at the same time, there was some awareness of family life, school life and someone who was out to kill him. It was a confusing start, if I’m honest, I didn’t know up from down and the chapters were really short, adding to that abrupt feeling. However, I did settle into the read more the second time I picked it up.

Having some professional experience of delusional states, I realised very quickly how well Shusterman had assembled this character, his delusional world. The world on the high sea was actually quite engaging after a while, but I was constantly looking for the chinks of reality in his sea-life, what might be analogy for what was going on in real life. I did find some ideas of reality in his imagined world; it was all pretty tragic.

I have to say this was discomforting reading, seeing a young man in crisis like this was not easy. Shusterman did not shy away from this theme and I commend him for this. I did however find the pacing slow and difficult to keep going with at time. There were chinks of hope though that helped me push through.

I don’t think this is a read that everyone will appreciate but I do think some will identify with or be curious about this experience that some young people go through. I also think this could be triggering for some readers, so do look closely at the blurb and reviews if you have experienced significant mental illness.

Thank you to Walker Books for this early review copy.

THE TOLL by Neal Shusterman

It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.


Title : The Toll
Author : Neal Shusterman
Series : Arc of a Scythe
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 631
Genre : YA Dystopian
Publisher : Walker Books
Release Date : November 7, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

This trilogy has overshadowed my other reads in the last couple of months, I’ve thought about the books, talked about the books and I’m so glad to say that the final installment did not let me down. THE TOLL demanded to be read straight after THUNDERHEAD and the grip this series had on my reading pleasure, did not relent it’s twisty hold.

The ending of THUNDERHEAD left readers aghast and believe me, the start didn’t do much to appease all the five million thoughts and hypotheses I had running through my mind. For all those hypotheses I had, not one was correct and no way could I have predicted what the Thunderhead had in store for the post-mortal age.

Greyson TOLLiver was even more in the fore of this book, another reimagining of himself but he became a character I was strangely more comfortable with. There are other characters, so important, that I am choosing not to mention by name because that is a spoiler in itself but their stories and characters meant so much to me. I have become so attached to the ongoing and eventual outcomes of some of these folks.

As for Goddard, brace yourself people, you cannot imagine him worse, but guess what, he’s pure evil. Aside from the old characters, there were some new characters, two of which I loved. Jeri and his gender identities were everything lovely, solid and loyal. I admired their character and I enjoyed the growth of connections between them and others. Cirrus was a fabulous and interesting development. The Thunderhead also went through some transformation which I still feel unsettled about.

The ending was BOOM!

Go read this trilogy, you won’t regret it. If you were put off by the covers like I have been for a few years, don’t let that stop you. I am now a fan of the covers thanks to the reading and how the covers have sparked with the story and my imagination. This is one of the best dystopian stories I have ever read. Please Mr Shusterman, give us some more stories from this universe.

THUNDERHEAD by Neal Shusterman 🎧

The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the Scythedom. All it can do is observe—it does not like what it sees.

A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?


Title : Thunderhead
Author : Neal Shusterman
Narrator : Greg Tremblay
Series : Arc of a Scythe
Format : Audiobook
Page Count : 13 hours, 2 minutes
Genre : YA Dystopian
Publisher : Audible Studios
Release Date : January 9, 2018

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I am blown away (again by this series and how it ended). This was the kind of second book that we don’t see as readers very often, the kind of book that exceeds the first book in expectation and enjoyment. THUNDERHEAD took all of my preconceptions from book one and set a bomb in the middle of them, leaving me jaw-dropped to the floor.

THUNDERHEAD itself had much more characterisation in this book and I loved every reveal, every moment of narration from the Thunderhead. I learnt so much more about the workings, ethics and even affection that the Thunderhead had and used to operationalise the world in this age. The scythes, however were an unhinged s**t show. Oh how they unraveled in this story and how I loved reading it all. The usual suspects were there, Scythe Curie, Scythe Anastasia (Citra) and Scythe Lucifer (Rowan). But oh my word, there were some scythe surprises too. I was shook.

This installment introduced the concept of unsavouries which was an interesting depth to this age and Grayson’s character made for interesting reading. We also learnt a bit more about the tonists too.

So who stole the show in this book? Two characters, firstly the THUNDERHEAD themselves and then Scythe Anastasia. I am now left in total suspense for what will happen in the final installment of this excellent series.

If my body is the Earth, then I am nothing more than a spec of dust in the vastness of space. I wonder what it would be like, then, if my consciousness were to someday span the distance between the stars. – THE THUNDERHEAD

The narration was excellent. One narrator, multiple POVS conveyed very well with tonation and mood. If you’ve not started Arc of a Scythe, then what have you been doing with your life?