BOOK REVIEW: '15 Days Without a Head' is a dark, funny, touching story

rbennett@idahostatesman.comMay 19, 2013 


    by Dave Cousins; Flux Books ($9.99)

Publisher's summary: Fifteen-year-old Laurence Roach just wants a normal life, but it's far from easy with his little brother who acts like a dog and their depressed alcoholic mother. But one night she doesn't come home from work, and Laurence must face the reality that she might not come back at all.

Terrified that child services will separate him from his brother, Laurence does whatever he can to keep their mother's disappearance a secret. For two weeks, he spins a web of complicated lies to friends, neighbors and the authorities - even dressing up in his mother's clothes to convince everyone she's still around. But Laurence can't hide the truth forever. He begins a desperate search for her, and that's when the real trouble starts in this powerful story about family, forgiveness and hope.

My take: Laurence isn't your typical 15-year-old. He lives in a small, run-down apartment infested with roaches, an annoying brother and an alcoholic mother. But that changes when Laurence wakes up one morning to find that his mom didn't return home from work the night before.

Determined not to let outsiders know what's going on, and telling himself and his little brother that, "Mom will come back soon," Laurence lives the most dangerous 15 days he's ever known. No money, dwindling food and a nosy neighbor who would turn them into social workers are the stakes he's playing against. But he's convinced he has a couple of advantages - one being the late-night radio contest he's been sneaking out to enter. If he wins, he wins a family trip to any vacation spot they want. He knows this win will bring his mom back from her drunken stupor and make them a family again. At least, he hopes it will. At the very least, it will put her in a good mood. The second ace in his hand is a girl from school who keeps his secret and helps keep him and his brother alive.

Although it's a gloomy and serious story, Cousins manages to fill the pages with bits of humor and lightness that counter the trials Laurence is experiencing. A touching story about sticking together as a family, forgiveness and learning to trust again, "15 Days Without a Head" is a great read.

Rating: I'd give this a solid 4/5 and rate the content PG for some mild language and drinking.

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