The Summer I Robbed a Bank
Over-protective parents, a tendency to ‘shutdown’ when things get too much and a chronic fear of water make Rex a very unlikely candidate for a summer of gallivanting on an island, camping on the side of a mountain (in torrential rain) and, indeed, robbing a bank. Yet, when his parents separate and he has no choice but to stay with wild, funny, unpredictable Uncle Derm on Achill Island, Rex finds that he is not so ill-suited to the role after all.
O’Doherty’s trademark zany humour is sustained throughout in this rapid-fire series of bonkers moments that all somehow make sense. The fine line between the conceivably likely and the totally improbable is surfed expertly, making for hilarious episodes and glorious characters. Uncle Derm turns out to also be someone who listens, who understands and who gives Rex space to think and grow. New best friend Kitty is fabulous, not least because O’Doherty is not afraid of giving her some ridiculous traits (her sense of priorities is monstrous). Rex’s parents, however, would have benefited from a more nuanced approach than the out-of-the-picture divorced father and the bubble-wrapping mother.
For all its laughs, The Summer I Robbed a Bank also follows an emotional trajectory that culminates in a bittersweet ending. Uncle Derm has been ill and dying for a long time, and this plot line comes to its poignant conclusion with the swiftness and brutality of a bandage that just must be pulled off. Some readers might need support around this.
Overall, a brilliant, snort-out-loud read with surprising heart.