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?
What I Thought:
As a book dealing with mental health issues within a family, I think Panther, by David Owen, is a must-read. This is regardless of the fact that it is ‘a YA’ book – whether you are dealing with these issues in your family, or not, if you’re a teenager or a parent Panther offers a unique insight into issues of depression, control and blame. Because who can Derrick blame for everything that’s happened to his family? He knows deep down that it isn’t his sister’s fault, and yet it doesn’t stop him feeling resentful. The passages dealing with his thoughts about his sister could be really valuable to someone who is going through what Derrick is – just knowing that they are not alone in feeling that way could help them to talk about it.
In many parts of the book I found myself really sad for Derrick, as he’s going through something which no young person should go through, and yet so many do. His only consolation, the only thing he can control in his life, is food. The pages dealing with his purchase and consumption of a vast quantity of food in an effort to calm himself and ease the pain he is feeling really struck a chord with me.
I can’t go into much more detail without revealing more of the plot than I would like, so I will end with a recommendation to read Panther, whether you’re dealing with a situation like Derrick’s or not. As a book, it is a great idea that has been turned into a well-written first novel, but it is also a tool for those inside and outside of depression to promote the one thing that we all find so difficult with mental health issues – talking about it.