Fifteen year old Laurence hasn't had the best upbringing. With an alcoholic mum and a six year old brother Jay who thinks he's Scooby Doo he's left to pick up the pieces in their chaotic life more often than not. But when their Mum doesn't come home one night, Laurence has to face his biggest challenge yet. Over Fifteen days Laurence does everything he can to keep their dysfunctional family together, but with no money and a nosy neighbour poking their nose in it isn't easy. Dreading the authorities getting involved and the thought of being separated from Jay, can he get his mother back before anyone finds out and the family is torn apart for good?
Until I started reading this book I had very little idea of it's subject so was somewhat surprised to find such a powerful and touching story. This is a very real story of neglect and life with an alcoholic parent and one I'm sure too many children across the globe live with everyday. My heart went out to Laurence, who at fifteen years old has to be parent to his younger sibling for most of his childhood. With a responsibility a lot of adults couldn't cope with and zero resources, I admired his loyalty and determination to to keep his younger brother with him.
This could quite easily have been a depressing read, but with Dave Cousins humour it has plenty of moments of lightness which had me laughing out loud at times. In one scene where, in his desperation to get money from his savings account, he tries dressing up as his mother, I was almost crying with laughing. The author has a natural comedic talent and the brothers plight is made all the more poignant by moments like this. I also felt very angry at times while reading this book, that a mother could just abandon her children for the sake of a drink. Yet Laurence never waivers in his support and belief in her. He recognises her alcoholism as an illness and his insight into it is thought provoking.
15 Days Without A Head is one of those books that encourage thought and education about it's topics without you even realising. Despite it's dark subject I found it quite uplifting and hopeful by the end. A brilliant book that I'll be encouraging my own teenager to read and one I recommend highly.
Published by OUP January 2012
Thanks to the publishers for sending an advance copy for review.