Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Title: 15 Days Without a Head
Author: Dave Cousins
Publisher: Flux Books
Publication Date: May 8, 2013
Genre: YA
Reviewed by: Books4Tomorrow
Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley
My star rating: 5/5


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 . . .


I think what I expected was a book that would make me laugh. Something lighthearted about two boys having the run of the house while their mother has left for a few days. Instead, I got a touching and heart wrenching story about two brothers fighting to survive and not being taken from their home by social services, while they try to find their mother who disappeared without a trace.

Reading it from a parent’s point of view, 15 Days without a Head is quite a disturbing read.  I also have to boys slightly younger than the two in this story which I would never dream of abandoning - ever. I understand there are mothers out there who finds it difficult to deal with the challenges of raising two children on their own, but abandoning them without food or money? Unthinkable! Seeing as I would never do such a thing to my children, this novel touched me on so many levels. I couldn’t relate to their mother at all and I felt her reasons for abandoning her kids weren’t good reasons at all, since most things in life – especially parenthood – boils down to the choices we make. But still, reading about a fifteen-year-old boy in the role of a parent was completely new to me as this is not part of my reality.

Needless to say, I didn’t like Jay and Laurence’s mom, but I adored Laurence, Jay and Mina. These are such inspiring and extraordinary characters, especially with the strengths they showed in dealing with the circumstances they were forced into. Laurence taking on the role of his mother and doing the best he can with no money to try and keep his little brother fed and safe while their alcoholic mother is who-knows-where, is simply admirable. He is, of course, the hero of this story as he had to deal with the responsibilities of an adult and at the same time he didn’t resent his mother for leaving them behind, even when he discovers why she gave up on them. It didn’t take long for Laurence and Jay to find a spot in my heart. Mina was just amazing. She brings a positive tone and hope to this story, and like Laurence she shows maturity and understanding beyond her years. I enjoyed the parts where Laurence were phoning in for the competition to win a holiday for his mother, himself and Jay, and every scene where he had to answer three questions to go through to the next round of the competition, added suspense to the story. Will he or won’t he make it through to the next round to win the grand prize? Nailbiting stuff, I tell you.

The writing is spot-on with the characters’ emotions and the dialogue keeps the plot moving at an easy pace. I’d recommend this terrific novel to parents who, like me, can’t imagine ever leaving their children to their own peril, and to anyone who’d like to read a story about courage, hope and determination.  I’m looking forward to reading more of this author’s books!



Jay wants me to push him on the swing. I tell him five minutes, then we have to go. I want to get back inside, it feels like everyone is watching us out here.
‘Are we going to the phone box tonight?’ asks Jay, as we pass the store.
‘Not tonight.’ I almost tell him that Baz only does his show during the week, then remember that Jay still thinks I’m phoning a friend from school. I wish I could tell him the truth. A secret is like a bag you have to lug around all the time-each day you add another lie, and it just gets heavier and harder to carry on your own.
‘When will Mum be home?’ says Jay, as we climb the steps up to the Heights.
‘I don’t know. Soon.’
‘I wish she was here now.’ His hand snakes into mine, all greasy and hot.
‘Yeah, me too.’
It strikes me that real life isn’t like Scooby-Doo. There are no conveniently placed clues, no trails of glow-in-the-dark footprints to follow. I think even Velma would struggle to solve this one.



15 Days without a Head has 55 reviews on Goodreads. Read it here.



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.


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