Bank by Emma Quigley (YA)

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Set in a rural Irish secondary school, this is the hilarious story of a bunch of pupils who have the genius idea of pooling their savings, setting up a bank and lending money to their schoolmates at extortionate interest rates. With sure-fire investments like a dating app and performing piglets, our lunch-break bankers are on a roll. But everything that booms must bust, sooner or later, and before long the whole thing starts to unravel.

Fast-paced and hilarious, this book – with its clever parallel to the Irish banking crisis – is worth its weight in gold.

Along with Cethan Leahy, I heard Emma Quigley read at the New Voices session this year at the Children’s Books Ireland conference last month. When I heard the opening chapter of Bank, I knew I’d have to seek it out for #AwesomeIrishBooks.

Bank puts us right into the middle of this elaborate get-rich-quick scheme set up by a dynamic group of schoolkids. The main strengths of the book are its light tone and its larger than life characters. The world of Bank is populated with these zany characters with inspired names, like Paddy Tarantino (the local viral video maker) and Mona Lisa Murphy. In some cases their actual names are revealed but the commitment to the nicknames throughout is definitely indicative of a very Irish phenomenon. All of these characters bring a richness to the plot and zip in and out of the main group’s schemes.

We see the narrative through the eyes of Luke, who goes along with the outlandish plans of his friend Finn. They enlist Emily and Pablo (mainly for his charm and good looks). My favourite of the group though is Gabe, who doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening most of the time, but the best physical comedy moments come from him. There’s a great thread running throughout that Gabe can only be understood by Finn and the group, because of his own inimitable slang.

Bank is centred around some clever schemes that help make the eponymous business a runaway success. There’s a dating app developed by twins in the school, which is funded by the group and a lucrative penalty shootout between some of the stars of the school team. The setpieces that follow include a school musical with money literally flying around and a farcical scene involving vomit and a camera crew that happens to be in the school making a documentary.

The story is driven by the various ups and downs of the improvised bank, but it’s really propelled by the unpredictable coterie of characters. Even the adults in the story are portrayed as a bit barmy, mainly Principal ‘Powder,’ a man with a punchbag in the middle of his office.

I enjoyed the world of Bank so much that I’d love to read another story involving some of the peripheral characters as they were so well weaved into the story and were hilarious to read about. Bank  is a fun and easy read, with wide appeal and humour to spare.

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