“I couldn't put it down. Laurence is 15 and living with his drunk, two-job working, depressed mum and his 6 year old brother Jay in a run down walk-up. Roaches in the kitchen, despair all around. Laurence is convinced that if he just manages to win a radio contest vacation that his mum and life in general will turn around. That is, until the day that mum doesn't come back home.
The writing is realistic and the characters real: flawed and honest.”
“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 . . .A compelling thriller filled with some hilarious and surreal moments. Fifteen Days Without a Head is a tender, honest story about family, forgiveness and hope.”Simone wrote this review Saturday, June 15, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The trouble begins when Laurence's mom disappears or runs away. We don't really know why she doesn't come home, and the hours turn into days. Laurence, the older brother, is left to care for his bratty baby brother. He misses school, scrounges for money for food, dodges neighbors, lies and searches for his mother, all while trying to win a vacation through a radio contest. It sure is convenient he has phone cards to use at the booth! Although all the focus is placed on Laurence and his brother's two-week struggle, I was left wondering what drove the single mother to do what she did? The obvious assumption provided by the author is depression and addiction, but the actual turning point and precise moment when the decision is made to abandon the children is never witnessed. I believe a missed opportunity happened here. If included, it would have contributed incredibly to the story, both emotionally and psychologically. Without this experience, as a reader, my sympathy was lessened and my understanding, diminished. I felt I needed to see more, feel more and understand the mother better in order to relate to Laurence's bond and loyalty. Sure I cared, but I wasn't all that invested.
15 Days Without A Head is a decent, steady read that would fit well in a school library or used as a classroom reader. In fact, it's as if the book was purposefully written with this demographic in mind. I wouldn't be surprised if this one ended up on summer reading lists and those approved to be selected for book reports. It touches on several domestic issues that impact families, but without the nitty-gritty imaginary that could ruffle educational planning boards. Simply put, this book is as safe as an after school special, but does it really portray reality? It provides obvious themes that can be easily selected for discussion without profound exploration. The plot leads to formulaic questions such as what should/could have Laurence done in this situation? What was the better choice?
I understand some topics can pack a powerful punch without the use of over-the-top violence or shocking situations, but despite the subject matter, 15 Days Without A Head is too sterile and transparent for my taste. Compared to the newly released Sketchy by Olivia Samms, where thematically the multi-layered plot addresses issues of drug abuse, recovery and neglect in a way that is also neither too graphic or shocking, 15 Days Without A Head cannot contend with similar, but harder-working novels. ”
“Laurence isn’t your typical 15-year-old. He lives in a run-down, small apartment infested with roaches, a brother who thinks he’s a dog at times, and an alcoholic mother. But that changes when Laurence wakes up one morning to find that his mom didn’t return home from work the night before.
Determined not to let outsiders know what’s going on, and telling himself and his little brother that, “Mom will come back soon”, Laurence lives the most dangerous 15 days he’s ever known. No money, running out of food, and a nosey neighbor that would turn them into social workers are the stakes he’s playing against. But he’s convinced he has a couple of advantages. One being the late night radio contest he’s been sneaking out to enter. If he wins, he wins a family trip to any vacation spot they want. He knows this win will bring his mom back from her drunken stupor and make them a family again. At least, he hopes it will. At the very least, it will put her in a good mood. The second ace in his hand is a girl from school, who keeps his secret and helps keep him and his brother alive.
Although a gloomy and serious story, Cousins manages to fill the pages with bits of humor and lightness that equal out the trials Laurence is experiencing. A touching story about sticking together as a family, forgiveness, and learning to trust again, 15 Days Without a Head is a great read.
Rating: I’d give this a solid 4/5 and rate the content as PG for some mild language and drinking.
“As part of my job I was asked to read the short list of nominees for the Grampian Children's book awards and this is one of the titles that made that list and rightly so. In this story Dave Cousins tells the story of Laurence, a 15 year old who would love to live the life of any normal teenager but finds himself being trying to be the lynch pin that is holding the family together. His mother suffers from depression and alcoholism and decides one day that she can no longer cope with the pressures of family life and so it falls to laurence to care for his younger brother and to disguise the fact that his mother has dissappeared. Cousins is a good writer and the novel is both a serious account of one familys struggle on the poverty line and has comedy elements in it too. A well written story and would definitely recommend. ”Alison wrote this review Monday, May 6, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No