Publication date: 7 May 2015
Publisher: Constable & Robinson
Length: 230 pages
Age group: Young Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: ★★★★
Life isn’t going terribly well for Derrick; he’s become severely overweight, his only friend has turned on him, he’s hopelessly in love with a girl way out of his league, and it’s all because of his sister. Her depression, and its grip on his family, is tearing his life apart.
When rumours start to circulate that a panther is roaming wild in his south London suburb, Derrick resolves to try and capture it. Surely if he can find a way to tame this beast, he’ll be able to stop everything at home from spiraling towards disaster?
I keep saying this – and I’m sure I’ll say it again – but depression and mental illness are not easy subjects to tackle. It’s not an easy thing to digest as a reader, but it’s even more difficult to write about these issues in a genuine and original way. However, David Owen did a fantastic job with his debut and Panther is just as brilliant and thought-provoking as I hoped it would be.
The story starts in a dark alleyway behind Derrick’s house where he’s eating stale, days old cookies out of a dustbin. Two paragraphs in, and I’m already hooked. It’s a bold yet perfectly eye-opening start, and you cannot help but wonder how things got this bad and what on earth drove Derrick to eat sodden cookies out of a bin for the past few months.
The rest of the story is just as captivating as the beginning and I’m not exaggerating when I say I read it in one sitting. In the following 22 chapters, we get a glimpse of how his sister’s depression affects Derrick’s family and everyone around them, how helpless and out of control they feel, and how each of them cope – or rather fail to cope – with Charlotte’s illness. I loved the fact that we heard the story from Derrick’s perspective rather than Charlotte’s, as I felt it made the story even more unique (and even more heartbreaking, if that’s possible).