- ISBN-13: 9780738736426
- ISBN-10: 0738736422
- Publisher: Flux
- Publish Date: May 2013
- Page Count: 302
- Reading Level: Ages 12-18
- Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.6 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-04-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Life’s not easy for 15-year-old Laurence Roach: his mother’s a barely-functioning alcoholic who works two jobs to scrape by; his six-year-old brother, Jay, acts like a dog; and Laurence is responsible for taking care of them both, which is exhausting. Laurence puts his hope in winning a lavish vacation by participating in a radio trivia contest, pretending to be his long-dead father. When Laurence’s mother doesn’t come home one day, he goes to desperate lengths to keep anyone from noticing that he and his brother are alone. But how long can he juggle responsibilities amid the lies and schemes? In his first novel (originally published in 2012 in the U.K.), British author Cousins offers a compelling story of Laurence’s struggles, with the darker subject matter balanced out by humorous undertones (such as Laurence’s ill-advised cross-dressing efforts at one point). There are no easy answers, only a sympathetic and painfully realistic look at how alcoholism affects families, set against Laurence’s semi-comical, semi-tragic escapades. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sarah Manson, Sarah Manson Literary Agency. (May)
Keeping a family together
Laurence Roach is a 15-year-old boy with a plan: save his family, no matter what it takes. You’d think that trying to win a radio trivia contest with a grand prize of a luxury holiday might be enough, but unfortunately, things don’t quite work out the way Laurence plans.
Instead, one day his mother simply doesn’t come back from work. Saving himself and his little brother Jay from the long arms of social workers takes all of Laurence’s considerable talents. He employs everything from complex lies to investigative detection to, well, cross-dressing.
But if that’s what it takes to keep his family together, Laurence is not about to give up, even when things get really bad: “Jay’s moaning that he’s hungry. He wants some breakfast. But there isn’t any food left and we’ve run out of money again.”
Set in England and written by London author Dave Cousins (who began writing at age 10), 15 Days Without a Head manages to be gritty and heartbreakingly funny at the same time. The book examines serious issues of alcoholism, suicide, parenting, trust, honesty and responsibility, but never in a heavy-handed way. And even while Laurence is negotiating the complexities of the adult world, school and the authorities, he also makes tentative first steps in a relationship with a girl his own age named Mina.
By the end, teen readers will pull for Laurence, his mum and little Jay to win that top prize: making it as a family.