Life is difficult for fifteen-year-old Laurence Roach, he lives with his alcoholic mother and his six-year-old brother Jay, who is obsessed with Scooby Doo and often acts as though he is Scooby Doo. Things go from bad to worse when their mother doesn’t come home one day after work and Laurence is left to cope on his own and to try and keep this a secret from nosy neighbours, his school and his friends, as he knows that if the brothers are found to be living on their own they will be taken into care and may be separated. Obviously the two boys are in a dire situation, running out of money for food for one thing, but the book is not depressing thanks to the warm relationship between them; Laurence gets frustrated by his little brother but also loves him enough to do his best to look after him, Jay is terribly vulnerable but the one stable thing in his life is Laurence.
Humour and pathos in the story comes from the nightly trips to a phone box that Laurence makes as he progresses through a radio phone-in competition. In the middle of this stressful time Laurence meets Mina, a girl from his school and they become friends although it takes a long time and a crisis to make Laurence be honest with her. She helps Laurence to locate his mum but this isn’t the end of the story; getting her back takes a plan and a little bit of luck.
In 15 Days Without a Head Dave Cousins has written a wonderful, uplifting book; a fabulous story of friendship, loyalty, ingenuity and brotherly love. His characters are flawed, Laurence isn’t a saint, he struggles with his responsibilities and does the wrong thing sometimes, but as the reader you are really rooting for him to succeed.
15 Days Without a Head (Oxford University Press £6.99)