Wednesday, 4 January 2012
Review: 15 Days Without A Head - Dave Cousins
Terrified that he and his little brother will be taken into care, Laurence tells nobody. Instead he single-handedly attempts to keep his family together, spinning an increasingly complicated web of lies, and even dressing up as his Mum in an elaborate act of deception . . .
To top it off, each evening Laurence calls his local radio station from a telephone box, impersonating his dead father in an attempt to win an all-expenses-paid luxury holiday in the sun. Surely that would be enough to cheer Mum up, stop her drinking so much, and make her come back home?
After two weeks on their own, running out of food and money, and with suspicious adults closing in, Laurence finally discovers where his Mum has been. And that's when the trouble really starts . . .
Disillusioned with her ability to cope, will the boys be able to convince their Mum to come back home?
Visit Dave Cousins' website for more information
I've been looking forward to reading 15 Days Without A Head ever since I heard Dave Cousins give a reading at an event last year so my expectations for the story were high. The trouble with expecting so much from a book is that it is easy to end up disappointed so I'll admit I was nervous when I started reading. Luckily Dave not only lived up to my expectations - he completely surpassed them and the story blew me away. It's hard to believe that this is a debut novel and that just makes me even more excited to see where Dave's writing career takes him in the future.
With themes of alcoholism, poverty and neglect this story could have made for a depressing read but although your heart will break for Laurence and the thousands of children around the world who are currently living in similar circumstances you will find yourself laughing out loud regularly as you are reading. The story will bring tears to your eyes one minute and have you snorting with laughter the next which is something I really appreciate when reading about such difficult subject matters.
Our narrator for the story is 15 year old Laurence who lives with his alcoholic mother and his younger brother Jay. Well, he did until the day his mother doesn't bother to come home. Laurence is sure that she will be back soon, after all she's never left them for more than a couple of days before, but as the days go by and the money and the food run out Laurence is finding it harder and harder to cope. It isn't easy to deal with a demanding 6 year old and try to keep up appearances so that the neighbours don't get suspicious and call social services. What Laurence wants more than anything is to keep what's left of his family together and to find a way to get his mother to come home. He is under more pressure than a child of his age should ever have to face but he copes exceptionally well in the circumstances. I have to admit that I was praying for social services or a responsible adult to step in and help him though, all I wanted to do was cuddle the two boys and make everything better for them. There were times I wanted to shake the adults in their lives and just make them DO something.
The characters are both so real that they practically walk out of the pages and I loved the relationship between Laurence and Jay. The age difference between me and my younger brother is the same so I could completely relate to Laurence's frustration at some of Jay's antics but you can also feel the strong bond between them. Jay was a typical 6 year old boy and reminded me so much of my brother at his age. The story is ultimately about love - the love the brothers have for each other and for their mum and even in her own strange way the love that she has for them. That love gives them all hope for the future and leaves you with the feeling that good things are possible after even the darkest times.
I really can't recommend 15 Days Without A Head highly enough, I think it's a book that everyone should read so if you're only going to take my advice once this year make it this book. I can't wait to see what Dave Cousins comes up with next - it will automatically be at the top of my wish list.
Source: Received from OUP in exchange for an honest review
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