Thursday, 5 January 2012

Fifteen Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins

Publisher: Oxford
Format: ARC
Published: 5th January 2012
Number of Pages: 288
Book: For Review*
Genre: Realistic-Fiction, Contemporary, Humorous, Action-Adventure, Mystery, Romance, Psychological Thriller-Suspense, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Mild Violence and Swearing, Alcohol References
No Drug References
Author's Site: Dave Cousins

How far would you go to keep your family together?
The sensational debut novel from Dave Cousins, winner of SCBWI’s Undiscovered voices 2010
Meet LAURENCE, fifteen years old and six feet tall.  Very soon, he’ll dress up as his mum and impersonate a dead man on the radio.
Meet JAY, his six year old brother.  He looks like an angel but thinks he’s a dog.  He’ll sink his teeth into anyone who gets in the way.
Today is Tuesday – and the next fifteen days with change the boys’ lives forever…

What would you do to keep your family together?  Fifteen-year-old Laurence Roach is prepared to do anything to keep his little brother Jay with him: See, his Mum has problems.  She drinks a lot and smokes and works two rubbish jobs to get enough money to feed them all.  But one day, she just doesn’t come home.  To start with, Laurence isn’t overly worried.  She’s disappeared before, gone off drinking ‘til her money runs out.  But after a while, he realises this is different.  And to keep Jay with him, Laurence has to pretend his Mum is still there.  And as I said before, Laurence will do anything to keep his family together.  Including dressing up as him mum.
The next fifteen days are going to change both Jay and Laurence’s lives forever…
I started this one as soon as I got it, but had to put it aside because of other review priorities.  It’s been niggling at me ever since them.  I only left it for a little while, and I almost went round the bend, desperate to know more about Laurence.  And after reading the whole book: not disappointed!  I loved every moment, loved Laurence and Mina and especially little Jay!  I was just sucked into the story, and I had to know what happened to the boys.  It was the most amazing debut!
Laurence Roach was someone I loved straight away.  He was funny, but I also knew instantly that he’d been through so much.  He was the most amazing big brother, always looking after Jay, always having to be strong for Jay…  And Laurence really was so, so strong.  He had to deal with too much, poor boy, so much responsibility.    Laurence tried so hard to keep everything together:  constantly looking out for his mum, getting up at 5am to get her ready for her job, even doing it for her.   His biggest fear was that his brother would be taken away and he wouldn’t be able to stop it.  Laurence Laurence Roach just felt so real to me.  I feel Mina described him perfectly: “stupid – but brave”. 
Jay Roach was sweet, and both too naïve and too old.  He had a thing for dogs: he pretended to be one – mainly to bug Laurence.  Strangers loved him because of his angelic looks.  And he was just really funny – even if he didn’t mean to be!  I mean, he turned into “Scooby Doo” – Scooby bites people, not Jay!  I loved the kid, and felt so sorry for him as well.
‘Mum’ – Margret Roach, drank and smoked.  Her kids hid until ‘Happy Hours’, when the drink would make her smile and be all hugs and kisses.  She was so depressed: without drink she stayed in bed or locked herself in the bathroom and cried.  Or she got mad.  All the way through, I was asking: Why did she leave?   By the end of the book, I had my answer.  And everything I thought about her changed.
Mina was in a brass band, sort of bossy and confident.  I liked her straight away!  She was just really funny, and really nice to Laurence, as well as being smart and logical.  Oh – and slightly mad!  Plus I totally felt the Mina-Laurence chemistry!  It was a really strong and sweet romance.
But probably my favourite thing about this story was the relationship between Laurence and Jay; I loved it.  You could tell how much they loved each other: it was really touching and real.  They stuck together through everything.  Laurence always looking after Jay, who was the Scooby to his Shaggy.  Although they were close, there was also just the right amount of exasperation and bickering.  Siblings just aren’t siblings without a little fighting, after all!  Most of all, I loved how the two of them and Mina pretend to be the Scooby Gang!
I love contemporary.  The whole real-life horrors and dramas have become addictive for me.  Fifteen Days Without a Head was an amazing contemporary.  I loved the problems, how real it felt to me.  I loved seeing how an ordinary teen, with extraordinary strength, handled everything, overcame it.  I fell in love with Laurence and Jay, their relationship.  And Dave’s writing was just infectious.  It was totally teenager, without feeling forced.  More importantly, it was Laurence Roach.  I could feel him as I read, but more than that, it was emotional.  I cried (out loud) at some bits, laughed my head off at others (mainly when Jay was involved).  I just fell in love with the voice, and was left wanting more.  Somehow, Dave managed to pull off a heavy subject with a light voice, something that is insanely hard to do, and I applaud him for it.  I can’t wait to see what he brings out next.  Maybe another Roach tale…
Fifteen Days Without a Head sucked me in with the characters, the plot, the writing.  The reality.  And the fact that Laurence was just so relatable.  It was a beautiful but horrible, a moving, emotional and funny story, with lovable and relatable characters and a believable plot, Fifteen Days Without a Head is a stunning book, one I won't be forgetting for a long time, and Dave is an author to look out for!  I loved this story!

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Anything by Keith Gray
Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz
Holes or The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
Happy Reading
* This book was received from OUP in exchange for an honest review


Candy Gourlay said...

Truly five stars!

Anjana said...

I'll definitely check this out soon =D Along with Saving Daisy!

Teena in Toronto said...

I enjoyed this book :)

Marlene Detierro said...

The writing is spot-on with the characters' emotions and the dialogue keeps the plot moving at an easy pace. I'd recommend this terrific novel to parents who, like me, can't imagine ever leaving their children to their own peril, and to anyone who'd like to read a story about courage, hope and determination. I'm looking forward to reading more of this author's books!

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