15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins (2013)

daysIn this British import, a teen goes to great lengths to keep anyone from discovering that he and his little brother have been abandoned by their alcoholic mother.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   302 (for ISBN 9780738736426)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, British

Tone/Style: humorous, distressed

Pace: moderate

Topics: alcoholism, siblings, contests, survival, cons

Themes: family, trust, responsibility

Summary: How far would you go to keep your family together?

Meet Laurence – fifteen years old and six feet tall – he’ll dress up as his mum and impersonate a dead man on the radio. Meet Jay – his six year old brother. He looks like an angel but thinks he’s a dog. He’ll sink his teeth into anyone who gets in the way.

Today is Tuesday – and the next fifteen days will change the boys’ lives for ever… (Source)

Who will like this book?: This tragicomedy is great for readers who want feels, but with some laughs too. It provides a valuable peek into the lives of kids in an unstable family situation. The book should comfort those in the same sort of situation, and educate those who aren’t.

Who won’t like this book?: Readers who don’t like character-driven fiction should steer clear. Realistic fiction readers who prefer tragedy of the more serious sort would do better elsewhere; the subject matter of this book is serious, but it’s tempered by humor.

Other comments: This is a hidden gem. Not many people have heard of it, but it’s a great book.

Sequel(s):

Readalikes: Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu is a story about sisters coping with their mother’s alcoholism that includes some magical elements. Lush by Natasha Friend, The Education of Ivy Blake by Ellen Airgood, and Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer are all about girls with an alcoholic parent. In Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, a boy embarks on a journey home after his bipolar mother abandons him. Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt and Survival Strategies for the Almost Brave by Jen White are about girls who take care of younger siblings after parental abandonment. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta and Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (both recommended for grades 8 and up) are also about abandoned girls.

-Kylie Peters

Image credit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16249303-15-days-without-a-head

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