Title: 15 Days Without a Head
Author: Dave Cousins
Published: May 8th 2013 by Flux
Genre: YA Contemporary
Fifteen-year-old Laurence Roach just wants a normal life, but it’s not easy when your mum is a depressed alcoholic, and your six-year-old brother thinks he’s a dog. When Mum fails to come home one night, Laurence tells nobody, terrified he and his brother will be taken into care if anyone finds out. Instead, he attempts to keep up the pretence that Mum is still around: dressing up in her clothes to trick the neighbours and spinning an increasingly complicated tangle of lies. After two weeks on their own, running out of food and money, and with suspicious adults closing in, Laurence finally discovers what happened to his mother. And that’s when the trouble really starts .
Okay, wow. This book is kind of heartbreaking, but beautiful.
Life pretty much sucks for Laurence Roach. His dad died when he was young. His mother is nearly always drunk, with the violent mood swings that goes with. His little brother is both and adorable and unbearably obnoxious at the same time. Their family is strapped for cash and they live in a dump. He is often late for class because he has to take his little brother to school. And that is all before his mother goes missing.
No matter what happens, Laurence doesn’t give up hope. That is where the beauty of this story lies. This 15 year old kid who will do anything to keep his family going. He spends his evenings in a telephone booth with a stolen call card, imitating his father (with a Scottish accent lifted from a Teacher), play a trivia game on a radio show in the hopes that he can win his family an all expenses paid vacation. Surely that would cheer his depressed mother up. They could get away, if even for a little while, and live like normal, carefree people.
Then the worst happens, and his mother doesn’t come home. Days pass with no sign of her. Money runs out. Food runs out. Jay becomes ill. It’s all Laurence can do to keep it together.
Laurence and Jay form their own little Scoobygang, with Laurence as Shaggy and Jay as Scooby, and a girl from school as Velma. Together they set out to find the missing mother, but real live sleuthing isn’t as easy as it looks in cartoons.
It’s a tale of courage and determination. It even has a lovely, quiet romance for our lovely, quiet hero. My heart goes out to Laurence, to everyone who’s ever been a victim of bad and neglectful parenting, to the amazing souls who have risen above it to be more than what they know.
There are a couple of good chuckles mixed in, as well. For as sad as the subject matter is, at no point did I feel like it was a downer. Or that the book lacked action. With all the in your face male characters and bad boys of YA floating around, reading about a guy like Laurence gives me hope, you know? Sometimes the overlooked boys are the most beautiful of all.
Dave Cousins completed his first novel in the back of a van, while touring with his band (who were almost famous!)
He went on to be a winner of the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices Anthology 2010 and his debut novel for teens, 15 Days Without a Head, was published by Oxford University Press in January 2012.
Originally from Birmingham, Dave now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and family, in a house full of books and records, and writes in a corner of the attic with an anarchic ginger cat for company.