A Writer’s Review: Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman was a tremendously written alternative approach to mental health. Neal used a method of portraying our main character’s mental anguish as a somewhat split storyline, that eventually for the reader started to tie together and make sense. It alternated between Caden’s real life and a fictional-fictional journey to Challenger Deep. As I came to the end of the book, I started to have moments of “oh I get it now” and “oh that’s who it is!”

At first, I felt a little hazy. As the characters and events in Caden’s internal storyline started to come into existence, it took some time before I realised this journey on the ship wasn’t real. But once I came to appreciate the voyage to Challenger Deep (and the diverse characters onboard) was related to things in Caden’s life, I began to value the book even more.

Mental health is a tough subject to write, specifically because the feelings related to each and every case are different. No one person ever feels those things identically, and so no one author can depict mental illness in it’s entirety. All they can do is present a perspective of it, and hopefully have an impact on it.

No one author can depict mental illness in it’s entirety.

That, is exactly what Neal Shusterman has done with Challenger Deep. The novel brought to light Caden’s schizophrenia in a unique way that drew me in like never before. I felt Neal’s technique of leaving myself to unravel who the characters were functioned as an excellent tactic to keep me on the edge of my seat while not being left entirely in the dark. As a slow reader, I found myself excited every time I curled myself away to read this book. And when I finished, there was (and still is) a promising desire to explore more from Neal Shusterman.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Thoughts: 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why remains to be my favourite novel. It was a book that I connected with on so many levels. And if I hadn’t of been so busy this year, I would have been traveling to meet Jay Asher himself. Unfortunately, my excitement for 13 Reasons Why being released on Netflix, was rather quickly destroyed when I started to view it. It’s an age old saying, the book was better than the movie. I was prepared for that. But that’s almost an understatement in this situation. Netflix has caused an outrage amongst many. News outlets have been posting about how many people are being affected by this on various levels. And this is not referring to a positive impact. But rather, in ways that are causing ones to become very distraught, anxious and low and behold… Depressed.

Quite frankly, the Netflix series is delivering this story in the wrong way. They are presenting the show in an unhealthy manner. It pushes a stereo type of this severe problem that is impacting millions of young adults around the world. They graphically show Hannah Baker’s suicide on screen. The book, does not do this. The Washington Post stated that “the show deviates from the book”, and that is most definitely true. An actor in the show stated that making audiences “past uncomfortable was a very deliberate decision.” They thought this would “show the ugliness and not use these events and issues as plot devices or romanticize them.” But instead they are causing the world to mock mental health and make people view suicide attempts and depression as ways to seek attention.

In my opinion. You don’t need to show a suicide attempt on screen. It’s freaking obvious what’s going to happen. And can have even more of an impact by getting people to think about it, rather than see it. Instead, this only causes problems and distress. And it does NOT help the cause of raising awareness for this issue.

– Michael Topschij. 

A Writer’s Farewell: Club Penguin

This morning I received an email from something I had not heard from in such a long time. It was unexpected but also understandable. Dear Ninja O Dark, it began. The gamer name that I used and became well known by for the longest time. Disney’s Club Penguin is closing down, in preparation for a new version of the once well loved game. To me, Club Penguin had a massive impact on my life. It in itself is almost key to a lot of the corporate work that I do today. I started blogging about the game before I started high school, and then quickly went from doing stuff for fun, to doing it for a career.

I made friends in some amazing and crazy ways. I learnt and did amazing and crazy things.

I know a lot of people that had this game as a part of their childhood. It  was almost our introduction to worlds like Facebook, a more simple and youthful way for us younger ones to make friends and play around. Yet at the same time, it got some of us creative ones to step out and shine. I know several friends who started blogging and using Club Penguin as a way to explore their talents who are now working for large companies, doing huge things and conquering the world. It’s certainly the case for me, I mean heck, I met Apple’s CEO Tim Cook thanks to where I started with this game.

Waddle On!

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: Extraordinary Means

Well, I was not expecting it to have all of the emotions of John Green’s; The Fault In Our Stars, but that was exactly what started to happen as I got closer to the end. This would be the third book i’ve read about cancer. Well, actually, it’s not about cancer, it’s about TB. But this story was about Lane and Sadie. Two young teens who have both ended up at a hospital for young ones with tuberculosis. I really enjoyed the storyline, I loved the characters and what was going on. I found it really easy to follow along with. Again this book grabbed the style of using two characters to tell the story. Switching chapters between Lane and Sadie. I think this was used in a really good way, to keep the pace of things and make it easy to see what was going on. It also meant that you could see the emotions, thoughts and reactions from both sides.

Unfortunately though, one thing I think that to a degree failed with this book, was the progression. It took a long time for it to get anywhere. I would say the first 60% of the book was introducing us to the characters, the world around them and building their back story. It wasn’t until the near end when connections started to happen and events began to un fold. I’ve been thinking about this, and deciding whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Was the book unenjoyable? No, it was an enjoyable novel. Did I find myself bored at times? No, I found it quite easy to read. So why would the slow progression be negative? Honestly, I’m not sure. I feel a story is a story, and you need to have a beginning, a middle and an end. Whereas this felt like a beginning, a beginning and then an end.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

I quite simply do not know where to begin. I don’t know if I want to splurge everything out right at once or hold back suspense for my reaction. Because, that is how this book worked, and it was amazing. I want to take a couple of days to think, because there is somewhat of a decision I need to make; this book may have just become my favorite novel. Currently standing is John Green’s Looking For Alaska. But this, well, oh my god was it fantastic.

The story is about a girl named Hannah. A girl who has taken her life. Prior to doing that, she has recorded her story onto cassette tapes and organized for them to be passed along to people who were involved in her story. This is told to us through a guy named Clay. I won’t spoil how he’s involved, but obviously he is one of the people who have made an impact on her life.

The majority of this story, is about showing what impact people can have on those with depression. I finished this novel in a period of under 8 hours whilst on a flight from Dubai to London. I had to keep turning pages. And this book, most definitely created some emotions. The way it was written, the way you started to build a connection to the characters. I seriously found myself getting extremely concerned, and sad for fictional Hannah. When it came to the end, and she started explaining her plans for suicide, I found myself grasping desire to try and stop her… That’s right…

I wanted to try and save this fictional girl in this fictional novel. 

So I’ll just clarify that, I was sitting reading a book and wanted to try and save a girl that did not exist. That’s how well written this was, that’s how amazing the words on these pages were. But, I’ll add some bias here… I am currently writing a YA novel on depression. So the likelihood that something like this will connect with me is 10x higher than it might normally. But that being said, I’ve read many NY times best sellers (this too is rated as an international best seller) and without a doubt hold back no reservation to assign this to my favorite books collection. And again, am feeling very confused about whether I will be setting this as my favorite novel I’ve ever read. John, I’m sorry bro, imma let you finish. But Jay Asher’s got one of the best ya novels of all time! (Sorry, just had to make that reference there). Again, Jay Asher, well done. This was your first book, and damn, was it an astonishing start.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: The Beginning of Everything

We all get a tragedy. Yes, yes we do. That’s the theme of Robyn Schneider’s; The Beginning of Everything which tells the story of Ezra Faulkner. The everyday popular kid at high school. Except there was a little bit of a difference, Ezra had something dramatic happen to him (ended up cripple following an accident) and started taking a little bit more of a deep look at things. This introduced us to Cassidy, his new found love interest. A new girl with a mysterious past, the new girl that doesn’t quite fit in or go with the flow.

I really loved this book, it continues to be another book that reaffirms my love affair for young adult fiction. The American high school scene, the ecstatic cheerleaders and the live young die hard attitude of today’s youth (god I’m twenty, did I just say that?). But really, that’s what happened as I was reading through this. It showed a lot of the classic attitudes of kids these days, and the lack of desire that some have to, do the right thing, treat others with kindness and be generally all out good people. Of course I’ve definitely got to take a step back and remind the whole “age” thing makes an impact. But with that being said, when I meet characters like Ezra and Cassidy in novels like this, it reminds me a lot of some of the great & similar friends that I’ve met.

I don’t have an intense, in depth review for this. But that definitely does not mean I want to fault it, because the story was so wonderful and easy to read. It was enjoyable to keep turning pages and the characters, events and storyline of this was really just an overall enjoyable young adult novel. I loved learning about debate teams and seeing some of the more intellectual types this young world has to offer. It reminds me of high school and when the whole “debate” thing was offered one day. I had definitely considered it, and reading this book, makes me regret not giving it a go. That being said, who of us doesn’t wish they could have done high school differently, am I right? (Insert smirking emoji face here). Thanks Robyn for a wonderful read.

– Michael Topschij.