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: Wonderful, Wonderful

While on my three month hiatus in the US of A, my favorite band of all time today have released their new album; Wonderful, Wonderful. Today was also the day that tickets for The Killers went on sale for their concerts back home in New Zealand. Thanks to awesome people on the Reddit forum I got the pre-sale code and was able to buy tickets to all of the concerts, but of course.

I’ve been listening to the album through and through today and wanted to share some opinions. And my opinions will actually include a broader topic than just this wonderful new album from The Killers (I tried to be a comedian there, sorry). In the iTunes editor write up for the album, I noticed a comment about Brandon’s wife dealing with depression. As I listened to “Rut” which was said to be Brandon’s song that addressed the fore mentioned depression, and then listened to songs like “Some Kind Of Love” I really started to put together a theme for this record. A song like “The Man” pokes fun at fame and fortune and shows the shallowness of it, while “Run For Cover” for me shared thoughts about the world and it’s flakey state that it’s in. Heck, that song even made comments on politics and almost to me sounded like there were a couple of stabs at U.S president Donald Trump (“big smile, fake news, run for cover you’ve got nothing left to loose”). I’m probably far off with that one, but the theme I’m more pointing at is that of mental health.

In some alternative way, my favorite band and my favorite author (John Green’s New novel; Turtles All The Way Down) are creating content that is highly influenced by what is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Heck, it’s recently been brought into the spotlight thanks to the horrific representation by the 13 Reasons Why Netflix series. And even more with other novels like All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven which is on its way to becoming a film. I’ve researched, looked at statistics and read multitudes or articles on this topic. And my thoughts are going to shadow a lot that already exist out there. Is mental health becoming a larger issue, or are we just talking about it more?

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: Playlist For The Dead

When I first read the synopsis for Michelle Falkoff’s Playlist For The Dead, I for a moment thought that it had some striking similarities to Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why. Thankfully it wasn’t too similar. The story was unique even with its reminders of the girl who doesn’t want to fit in any more, like in Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places. And how she starts to become the shoulder to lean on for the boy who’s struggling. This book deals with suicide because of bullying, which does indeed to some degree catch some similarities with 13 reasons. But at the same time there wasn’t any connection with sexual abuse and whilst yes, this is a story about mental health, it’s portraying it in another light.

One thing that I struggled with to some degree while reading this book, was keeping track of who’s who. There were quite a few characters with usual names, like Jack, Jake, Jason etc… The introductions to some characters that we saw quite often like Sam’s sister were rather brief, however much we continued to see her pop up during the story. With that said, I don’t think that’s a drawback. It may just be my inability to concentrate that could be getting in the way. As always, the reason I review this book with satisfaction is because of its ability to draw me into the story. I noticed myself smiling at moments of joy, and concentrating deeply for moments of conflict. All in all, it was a book that I enjoyed to the end and was happy being able to keep turning page after page.

– 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 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.