‘Panther’ by David Owen

Image result for panther david owen
*This review will contain spoilers!*

‘The whole thing didn’t make any sense to him. Depression. She didn’t have anything to be depressed about. It was her making everyone else’s life miserable.’ 

‘The cookie broke apart in his mouth like smashed concrete.’ 

We join Derrick during a binge-eating session as he eats cookies out of the dustbin. He doesn’t care about the taste, he just cares about eating as much junk food as he can to fill the void inside of him.

A few months ago, Derrick’s sister Charlotte attempted suicide.
Since the incident, Derrick has begun binge-eating.

‘Eating was the only thing in his life that he could control. No one held any power over it but himself.’

He’s also lost his best friend Tamoor, who abandoned him after he confided in him about Charlotte’s depression. Tamoor is now hanging out with the meatheads at school who bully Derrick for his weight, making him feel completely alone in the world.
All he has is the panther, and his dream of wooing his childhood friend, Hadley.

‘In all the confusion of the last few months there was only one things that Derrick had stayed sure of: Hadley was his only chance to be happy. If he could break free of this darkness and be with her, things would be ok again.’

The same night there were reports of a wild panther in the allotments that their home backs on to, and Derrick has linked the two events in his mind. He’s absolutely convinced that if he can catch the panther Charlotte’s depression will be cured, and everything will go back to normal.
Little does Derrick know, depression is the Beast that no one can control…

I loved the fact that David Owen chose to write about a male suffering with an eating disorder, because it’s not acknowledged enough in literature or in society as a whole, but it was the only aspect of the book that I appreciated.
It’s impossible to empathise with Derrick because he’s a hateful character. If that wasn’t obvious by the self-absorbed quote I featured at the top of the review, here’s another one for you:

‘She was so selfish! All he wanted to do was save them and she still treated him like he was useless.

“I’m the only one trying to do anything about it! […] No one bothers to notice how much it’s ruined my life! It’s destroyed everything!”‘

Hypocrite. He has the audacity to think of his sister as selfish, then makes everything about him. I’ve never met a character with such a disgusting ‘me, me, me’ attitude. This kid deserves a punch in the face.
He’s also extremely perverted for no apparent reason. I don’t know what David was trying to achieve by introducing that aspect of his personality! It doesn’t further the plot, it just makes for vastly uncomfortable reading. The book starts with a video of Derrick masturbating in the school toilets being circulated, then later in the story he’s hugging Hadley and thinks ‘about how he was so much stronger than her. How easy it was to capture her inside his hideous fat arms’ and to make matters even worse, he lets himself into her house using a spare key they have for emergencies and he goes and rolls around in her bed, sniffs her underwear and then – because that wasn’t creepy enough – he wears them on his head.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.
I have no words for how disgusting, disturbing and depraved this guy is. We’re supposed to feel sorry for him because his sister is struggling with depression and it’s effecting his entire family, and he’s suffering with an eating disorder and no one seems to have noticed because they’re all worried about Charlotte, but it’s impossible when I found his actions so distressing to read.
I genuinely don’t understand how this book has such good reviews. If it wasn’t bad enough that the main character is a creep, it’s also extremely slow, repetitive and overly stuffed with figurative language. The panther stands for depression – an obvious metaphor – but the book is laced with ineffective similes and metaphor that seem rather pointless.
The only saving grace is that Charlotte’s depression is written in a very authentic and heart-wrenching manner. That’s the only reason this book managed to scrape a second star from me. As someone who suffers from depression, I could see parts of myself reflected in Charlotte’s character: I just wish the book had been more focused on her than on Derrick. I know the point of it was to show how depression impacts upon the family unit, but that might have worked better if Derrick had been more of an average Joe.

I’m disappointed. I’ve been looking forward to reading ‘Panther’ for MONTHS, because David Owen is such a lovely guy and I was certain his book was going to become one of my favourites.
I’m still looking forward to ‘The Fallen Children’, but I’m not going to hype it up in my head as much as I did to this book.