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on 1 March 2012
I've just finished reading this book to my eleven year old son J for his bedtime story (you're never too old for a bedtime story) and he absolutely loved it; every night he pleaded with me to keep reading for longer.

Other reviews here have given details of the story so I won't repeat those. I just wanted to say that this is a lovely story, giving real insight into what it must be like for a family living in this situation, but with humour and poignance too. The use of present tense is a great way of feeling the immediacy of what is happening in the story.

I don't want to give away any of the story, but one of my favourite parts is to do with the building society book. This really reminded me of how my grandmother in the last few years of her life had deposited small bits of money in an account for my children - talking to J about that made me really sad, but gave a great opportunity to talk about something we've hardly ever discussed. Not many bedtime stories give you that!
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on 6 March 2012
I'll admit that this isn't the sort of book I would have immediately picked up - there are no werewolves, zombies, vampires, ghosts or other paranormal paraphernalia. Yet after reading 15 Days Without a Head I've gone off my paranormal diet!
I fell in love with poor Lawrence who is desperately trying to hold his family together in the face of a mother who has completely given up. In fact, she's tearing the family apart, with her drinking and ultimately her own absence. Lawrence is a fifteen year old boy who bears the responsibility of an adult. How does he hold down school, while also getting his little brother to do the same and getting them both fed on the few pennies their mother left in the house when she abandoned them? All this while searching for his absentee mother, avoiding the social services (who have let him down in the past), competing to win a holiday in the sun AND getting the girl?
I'm making this sound a little depressing, but it isn't. Somehow Cousins manages to make this a life-affirming story. Part of this is down to Jay, the little brother, a boy obsessed with Scooby Doo, who puts up with the behaviour of the adults in his life with marvelous forbearance.
I'd like to meet Jay and Lawrence.
More importantly I'd like David Cameron to meet Jay and Lawrence.
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on 5 January 2012
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!
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on 28 January 2012
This is an incredible debut, making great use of humour to deal with a decidedly unfunny scenario. Dave Cousins is a gifted writer. The grimness of life with an alcoholic mother is conveyed convincingly here, and our hearts break for these two lads. And yet, at the same time, this is a laugh-out-loud, enjoyable story.

Laurence narrates his own story, in the present tense, lending it immediacy and freshness. His voice is realistic as a fifteen-year old boy and as our narrator, we see the worries which he keeps back from everyone else, especially his brother Jay. Jay is also a great character, obsessed with Scooby Doo and given to pretending to be a dog. Their mum is also sensitively - but not sentimentally - drawn and we can see both how difficult her actions make life for her kids and the love they have for her.

The story is pacey and we have a real sense of things closing in on Laurence, while the tension is ramped up by his determination to protect Jay. Of course, since Jay is only six, he is too young to be confided in, so Laurence's isolation is total. It is also impossible to fail to be impressed by the way Laurence grows up and takes responsibility - even if sometimes this is approached via crazy half-baked schemes such as a desperate teenager might come up with. The 'dressing up as Mum' episode in particular is hilarious!

I can see how this book has made such an impact online and would absolutely add my voice to all those urging people to read it. It has broad appeal - both genders, a range of ages - and is important in terms of making lives like the Roaches' visible in a sympathetic and highly entertaining way. I'm certain Dave Cousins is destined for a great future in books.
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on 10 December 2013
This book is so different from those I usually read that I would not usually have bothered. I am glad I did. It is a funny narrative about a potentially very sad situation that could have been written in a really syrupy way, but wasn't. Take a chance and buy it. You won't be disappointed
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15 year-old Laurence looks like a hard-man. Six feet tall and strongly built, people assume he's trouble. In reality, he's just trying to keep things together for his alcoholic mother (who works two jobs and dreams of a better life) and his younger brother, Jay, (whose six years old and thinks he's a dog). Since Social Services threatened to take Laurence and Jay into care the family have been hiding out in a crummy tower block filled with cockroaches.

When Laurence's mum fails to come home from her job at the chip shop, he isn't too worried at first. But as the days pass, he finds himself having to look after his brother and himself and that's not easy when he's got no money, a nosey downstairs neighbour who's just waiting to call Social Services. Over the next 15 days, Laurence will dress up as his mum, impersonate his dead dad for a radio quiz, meet a trumpet-playing teenage girl and come to terms with his mum's illness and what it means for all of them ...

Dave Cousins's debut YA novel is a touching, well-written and funny story about a teenage boy who's being torn apart by his mum's illness and his attempts to keep everything normal for his brother.

Laurence has a great first person voice. Despite his hard exterior he's really vulnerable as he tries to make the best of things. Scenes where he discovers that his mum has spent Jay's savings on booze and he has to go through the flat looking for spare change to keep the two of them fed are well written and carry a real emotional punch. He has a sweet relationship with Jay, whose belief that he's a dog is charming and injects some much-needed humour to what would otherwise risk being a bleak read and I liked his burgeoning relationship with Mina, a confident, trumpet player who's taken a shine to him.

The scenes where Laurence poses as his dad to try and win a luxury holiday on a radio show didn't quite work for me (slightly too long and telegraphed). I would have also liked Laurence to actively confront his mum over what she's done but the ending has low key optimism and is believable.

All in all this is a solid novel that deals with a difficult subject in a sensitive way and it's well worth checking out.
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on 16 July 2014
The single parent of two, goes in to complete melt down and her sons wake one morning to find her no longer at home. The eldest knows she had 'gone missing' before, so tries to keep things together and awaits her return.

He fends for his little brother as best he can, while trying to achieve something special to greet his Mum back with on her return. Assistance comes to him from an unexpected source and with this support, he tracks his wayward parent. The question is, can she face coming home?

Cleverly written and thought provoking. Recommend reading this, to find out if they get their happy ending.
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on 12 March 2012
I loved this book - tender, surprising, tragic and yet tinged with hope. The characters truly live, you'd need to be utterly heartless not to fall for Laurence and Jay. It's just a terrific debut novel - toughed up Jaqueline Wilson for boys - I think Dave Cousins has hit a niche all of his very own.
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VINE VOICEon 6 December 2013
15 Days Without a Head tells the story of Laurence Roach who is busy trying to keep his family together - he's got an alcoholic mum and a brother who thinks he's a dog. He even dresses up as his mum to keep the Social at bay. Dave Cousins breaks your heart slowly then puts it back together again.. i couldn't put it down and I hope it wins EVERYTHING this year.
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on 28 January 2013
Not my usual read at all but the title caught my eye. I was hoping for something of the same quality as "The curious incident....." and I wasn't disappointed. Told with care arnd lots of humour this story deals with a single parent family with alcohol issues. Thankfully I've never had to deal with this kind of poverty and challenge so I can't speak for the accuracy of the environment drawn by the author, but I can say I was at once engrossed, horrified and charmed by this book.
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