Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Book Review - 15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins

Some books you read and find entertaining. And some books you read and never forget. This one is one I will have in my mind for a long time.

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 ...A compelling thriller filled with some hilarious and surreal moments. Fifteen Days Without a Head is a tender, honest story about family, forgiveness and hope. (Waterstones)

A few days ago I read an interview with a publisher for a newspaper magazine where he said "off the record, any publisher will tell the talent is not out there." Well... He should read this book. (And someone should smack him). 

Fifteen Days Without a Head (published by OUP) is Dave Cousins first novel. Dave was spotted by OUP after winning the 2010 SCBWI Undiscovered Voices and I had the pleasure of meeting him during the the bloggers evening earlier this year. He has a really inspirational story for aspiring writer like me (read it here). 

Anyway... His debut novel is just brilliant! And even though the ending was as happy as it could be, I'm absolutely heartbroken and I don't think I will be able to forget this story any time soon.  Fifteen Days Without a Head is not the kind of book I'd usually read because I read for escapism - it's really no wonder I love fantasy. And although this novel was definitely too close to reality for me - a teen, Laurence, living in poverty and looking after his younger brother on his own because his mum is a depressed alcoholic, yet his biggest fear is to have his family split apart - I am so glad I read it, I can't tell you. 

The characters are brilliant and so real at times that you feel destroyed for them. The emotion is so raw and yet portrayed so beautifully with a hint of self deprecating humour, that through all the heartbreak you can keep your head above water and even laugh about it. 

The most heartbreaking thing is the fact that people like Laurence get stuck going around in a vicious circle for no fault of their own and reading Fifteen Days Without a Head gives you a very close glimpse of what it feels like to be in that circle. It takes a lot of principals and good character not to succumb. You have to be a fighter. Luckily, that's exactly what Laurence is. And you walk away from it praying that the happing ending holds, even though he's a fictional character. 

It's brilliantly written. I would go as far as saying it was the best book I read this year. I think it should be put on the curriculum for schools. Not only because it's a brilliant piece of writing but because the issue is unfortunately common amongst teens. And even when it doesn't apply to who is reading it, it will sure give them a good dose of appreciation for their caring parents. 

Vivienne over at Goodreads mentioned that this book would make for great BBC TV drama and I couldn't agree more. So come on BBC! 

If you read one book next year, read this one. It's out on January 5th 2012.

To check the rating system click here.


  1. Interesting choice for a title.

  2. Thanks for such a great review, Paula. I'm glad you enjoyed the book. It was lovely to meet you at the bloggers event.

  3. Great review. I now want to read the book, but particularly because it has a pic of a red box on the cover. I am a little bit obsessed with them (including owning a real one!!).

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. ANN - The names is to do with the main character. He's called Lawrence Roach and as his mother is gone for two weeks the family is without a head and so is Lawrence, bless him. Dave mention on the OUP event that he had discovered through his kids that a cockroach (affectionately - not - known as Roaches) can live up to 15 days without its head, only dying of dehydratation at the end, so he thought the title would suit his story. Interesting indeed. :-)

  6. CLAIRE - I know! I love them too! Although they have said it before and not done it, I really hope they don't get rid of them. Ever! They are such a British symbol!

  7. I cannot wait to read this book, it sounds like such a good read.

  8. Great work. I prefer using natural cleaning aids too because as much as possible, I try to avoid those detergents with so much chemicals in it.
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