Paperback, 302 pages
Fifteen-year-old Laurence Roach just wants a normal life, but it’s far from easy with his little brother who acts like a dog and their depressed alcoholic mother. If Laurence can win the luxury vacation in a local radio contest, he’s certain his mum will finally be happy again. Then one night she doesn’t come home from work, and Laurence must face the reality that she might not come back at all.
Terrified that child services will separate him from his brother, Laurence does whatever he can to keep their mother’s disappearance a secret. For two weeks, he spins a web of complicated lies to friends, neighbors, and the authorities—even dressing up in his mother’s clothes to convince everyone she’s still around. But Laurence can’t hide the truth forever. He begins a desperate search for her, and that’s when the real trouble starts in this powerful story about family, forgiveness, and hope.
In Dave Cousins' debut YA novel, 15 Days Without a Head, 15-year-old Laurence Roach and his six-year-old brother, Jay, are abandoned by their alcoholic mother and left to fend for themselves for two weeks. Life was hard for Laurence even before his mother left. He had to make sure she got up in the morning, get his brother to school, run across town to get to his school, and then rush back after school to pick his brother up. After this he had to keep Jay safe until their mother returned home and finished her "happy hour" before she was approachable and then he put Jay to bed.
Life becomes even more difficult when she disappears. With little to no money and food, as well as a very snoopy neighbor and sitter, Laurence is scrambling to keep Jay safe and avoid having social services called on them, while simultaneously searching to find out what happened to their mother. He is also desperately trying to win a dream vacation in a call-in radio show trivia contest. Laurence believes that a vacation is what his alcoholic mother needs to make everything better. When Laurence makes a friend he can confide in, Mina, their life becomes somewhat better with her help. But Nelly, the nosy and mean-spirited downstairs neighbor, is getting suspicious. It's also getting harder to keep Jay safe and protect him from the truth.
While the subject matter is dark and serious, 15 Days Without a Head is nicely balanced with some lighter, humorous incidents. While I wanted the boys to contact social services and get help, I can understand why Laurence is afraid to do this and remains determined to keep her disappearance a secret and find his mother before someone finds out she is gone. Both Laurence and Jay are very sympathetic characters while their mother, needless to say, is not. This novel takes a serious look at how alcoholism can affect families without becoming overbearing. The conclusion was satisfying while keeping realistic.
15 Days Without a Head was originally published in 2012 in the U.K. The age range on this YA book is 12 and up.
highly recommended - for YA fiction
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Llewellyn Worldwide via Netgalley for review purposes.