My Catchphrases

Monday, 12 March 2012

Guest Review: 15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins

Author: Dave Cousins
Publisher: OUP
Publication Date: 5 Jan 2012

Synopsis from Goodreads

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 . .


When this novel reached me, I expected a zombie slash comic story with jokes and guts round every corner. I couldn’t have been more wrong and the title is more than a little confusing! In fact, 15 days Without A Head deals with some seriously hard hitting issues in an accessible and easy to read way. I think the novel is aimed a few years younger than most those Emma sends across but this doesn’t detract from its quality and for a debut, I can’t knock it.

Our protagonist is Laurence and the story is told from his point of view. He comes across as a really nice guy, struggling as hard as he can to deal with his mother’s alcoholism whilst also acting as mum and dad to his younger brother Jay. Within the first few pages of the book, Laurence is screamed at, hit and then his mother simply disappears, leaving no trace and no sign she’s going to be back. This leaves Laurence and Jay in an impossible situation. They’ve already dealt with social services in the past and this isn’t something Laurence will let happen again, so he simply pretends his mum is still home and tries to survive, convincing Jay she’s just at work.

To add another definitely comic twist to the novel, Laurence has been impersonating his father on a radio phone-in competition to win a holiday, answering question after question in a slightly dodgy Scottish accent. Laurence believes that winning the holiday will turn his mother’s fortunes around but now she’s gone, he doesn’t really know why he’s carrying on. Add into the mix a new friend in the form of Mina and Laurence somehow has to find a way to keep his neighbour Nosy Nelly from finding out about their mum being gone and also try and juggle school and looking after Jay. Surely this is all too much for a fifteen year old to deal with?

This novel is extremely well written and pitched at the right level so the hard hitting issues are dealt with in a way which bring you from laughter to tears and back again all in the space of ten minutes! It deals with a range of issues including alcoholism, single parenthood and poverty in a way that reflects the difficulty of living with such issues without being judgemental.

A brilliant debut and a triumph for Dave Cousins, it’ll be great to see what comes next from him.


  1. Great review, I'm looking forward to reading this one.

    1. Thanks :D it's really funny but hard hitting at the same time x

  2. Glad you enjoyed the book, Beth. Thanks for the great review.

  3. great review Beth, I really wanna read this one at some point!


Blog Design by Use Your Imagination Designs all images form the Very Own World kit by Irene Alexeeva