15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 8, 2013
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: alcoholism, siblings, family secrets
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)
Summary: Laurence is forced to keep up appearances for his 6-year old brother, Jay, and any curious eyes when his mother disappears for a few days. Her alcoholism has forced him to take all kinds of responsibility for years, but nothing like this.
Laurence could use a big, fat break.
When he dresses up like his mother (bra and all) to get money out of his forgotten bank account (he has to be 16 to do it himself), I was shaking my head and wondering how this could get any worse.
Unfortunately, he’s used to resorting to these kind of tactics when it comes to the spiraling of his alcoholic mother. Because even though Laurence can be totally annoyed by his younger brother, Jay, who likes to pretend to be a dog (like Scooby Doo) and hates that Jay can cramp his style when he wants to go out and act like a normal teenager, you can tell he loves him so much. This is why he fights to keep them together so badly, hide the truth from anyone who could alert the authorities — anyone who could tear their family apart.
Cousins’ succinct writing style (emphasizing sound so well) lets emotion come into its own in 15 Days Without a Head. A story like this could easily sink into cliche and too much too much of everything and instead the deep sadness of this story and the deep desperation that catapults Laurence each and every day just organically rises up. In fact, Cousins peppers a little bit of hope in each chapter as Laurence competes on a radio show to win an all-expense paid trip to a place of his choice. He believes winning this contest with bring his mother home and make her happy and sober.
It was absolutely heart wrenching to read as Laurence tried to comfort Jay and convince him that their mom was just “working late”. How he managed to keep it together was beyond me. As the time his mom is missing climbs to over a week, he’s really grasping at straws and I couldn’t wait to see how the story unfolded. Laurence needs to learn to a trust a little bit because he cannot cannot do it on his own and help arrives as Mina. She’s great with Jay, is there for Laurence, and concocts her own over-the-top plans when things get really dicey.
15 Days Without a Head may center around serious situations, dissuading some readers, but the writing is so strong and I can guarantee you are going to root for Laurence and Jay to find happiness. Will that happiness include their mother? Well, you’ll have to pick it up to find out. (Plus there’s a ton of love for Scooby Doo… who doesn’t love Scooby?)