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 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.

A Writer’s Review: Holding Up The Universe

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It was a sunny Thursday morning. I was lining up, wait, no, I just walked in. October 4th was the set release date for Jennifer Niven’s latest masterpiece; Holding Up The Universe. On October 3rd I visited the New Zealand equivalent of Barnes & Noble after reading that they had stock already of the book. I walked in, ready to buy, the shop assistant went out back to get my copy, only to come back and tell me I couldn’t have it until tomorrow. So, I came back, and bought it on release day!

This book was everything I thought it was going to be and more. Jennifer has a writing style that she seem’s to enjoy using. The method of writing through the eyes of two different characters to portray the story. I’d been used to this after loving her first novel; All The Bright Places. The one comment I will make, there were no chapters, and no pages numbers! But as for the story itself, well… This novel brought us into the lives of Jack and Libby. Libby an overweight American girl who’s struggled with being fat for a very long time, so much to the point of obtaining the title “America’s Fattest Teen”. Jack, well, he just seemed to be the cool kid at high school. With one big secret, he cannon’t recognize people. He has a real life syndrome that prevents you from recognizing faces. I found it astounding how this works, the fact you can recognize objects and identify what they are but not people? Yet, it’s a real thing!

We watched as Jack becomes introduced to Libby and explore things like self empowerment for someone like Libby who’s been struggling with the life of being insulted and ridiculed. And for Jack, things like being yourself as we’d seen Jack have to really try and push his way through with varied methods of faking a lot in his life. I really enjoyed this, it was indeed a page turner. I also enjoyed how easy it was to get through and read. Most people find themselves needing to make their way to the end of a chapter before they can put the book down, but pacing through this was quite easy due to Jennifer’s choice in writing style. And being able to make the ‘chapters’ rather short. I look forward to seeing more from Jennifer in the future, this book happily earns it’s way into the Books I Love category.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: An Abundance of Katherines

A novel that is one of the less famed works from John Green, An Abundance of Katherines tells the story of a boy who has only ever dated girls named Katherine. I think the reason this novel confused me, was because it was trying to be an extremely intellectual book. A novel that tried to combine logic and math with a story of teenage romance. It plagued some abstract writing styles that included making various references at the bottom of a page to something as if the story was some kind of a Wikipedia article. In fact the wikipedia article on this novel features a cover that looks like this is a 1980’s high school math textbook.

There were some hard things to grasp with this, such as details on Colin’s ethnicity. Lately these days, culture is extremely trying to be kind towards different genders, race, sexual identity etc… It’s something I’ve started to notice growing up, especially over the last few years. This book seems like it was somewhat of an early start at keying its way into that club, the club of everybody’s equal and everyone should get some stardom. Colin was a jew, I think? His friend was named Hassan and he was Muslim.

The overall story seemed to primarily be about Colin meeting a girl named Lindsey and this being a break in his cycle of dating girls named Katherine. Whilst I was looking forward to diving into another novel from my favorite author, I really struggled to enjoy this book, and unfortunately see why it is one of the less well known/received books from John.

– Michael Topschij.