I received a free poster of young adult author Neil Shusterman’s new book Challenger Deep! I’ve never received a free poster at an author reading before! The reading took place at Two Doors Down right next to Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois.
The atmosphere was jovial and festive. There were all kinds of kids there who were curious about Neil’s inspiration for their favorite books. Personally, I felt like a big kid myself, matching their enthusiasm. The book came after a long wait.
According to Neil, it had been planned for a number of years with his publisher, Simon and Schuster. The title, Challenger Deep, refers to one of his son’s elementary school science projects, but he wasn’t certain about the plot. With time, however, the story emerged. Neil revealed that the main character was inspired by his son’s struggle with schizophrenia. After the author received the news about his son’s diagnosis, he told the audience about the feelings of devastation felt by the family.
The book was timely in the current anti stigma campaign concerning mental illness. Those who are struggling may not feel comfortable in reaching out for help. He also hoped by writing the book that the people reading it who struggled with mental illness knew that they were not alone, the families that had a mentally ill relative would feel comfort and for those who have never had a mental illness would know what it was like to experience a psychotic break in reality.
As a former psychiatric nurse, I couldn’t agree with Neil more. As Neil read passages from his book, I was inspired by his ability to taking this experience and make something beautiful and positive. There were other freebies, which delighted me to no end! Neil’s son drew pictures that he gave away in a raffle for the audience. At the end of the night, I couldn’t wait to take the book home and read it curled up in a chair with a hot cup of tea!