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).
Although the subject matter makes Panther quite an emotional and difficult read, Owen managed to sneak a little bit of humour into the story with Derrick’s character, who I absolutely loved. In fact, I can’t name a single character who I didn’t like. One of the biggest problems I tend to have with these types of books is that the characters just… don’t seem real. Either that, or they feel two-dimensional because the focus is on the main character and everyone else kind of fades into the background. With Panther, I felt the exact opposite. I felt as if I knew these characters, as if they were not Derrick’s but my own friends, and all their actions, all their characteristics felt real.
I loved this book and I wish there were more novels like this. A lot of people mentioned this already, but I think it’s important that we talk about these issues instead of treating them as if they didn’t exist. The fact that depression is talked about in YA literature – especially in such an honest, raw, and eye-opening way – is fantastic and I’m sure Owen will have a massive success with his book.
Beautiful, heartbreaking and incredibly honest, Panther is an absolute must-read for adults and younger readers alike, and I can’t praise it highly enough.
I have 1 copy of Panther to give away to a lucky winner, courtesy of Constable & Robinson. If you’d like to be in the chance of winning, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
The giveaway is open to UK residents only and runs until 27 May, 2015. The winner will be selected at random and contacted by email. Good luck!