A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.
Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.
Do you remember your first love?
The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.
The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.
At its heart, The Impossible Fortress is a tender exploration of young love, true friends, and the confusing realities of male adolescence—with a dash of old school computer programming.
Bonus content: Play the "The Impossible Fortress" video game at http://www.jasonrekulak.com/game/
This absolutely had a Ready Player One feel to it. Which is great, because RPO is a great book. I was asked as I was reading this one if it's a YA (young adult) book. It's not. The main characters are teenagers, but I think that the teenagers today would not get the fun in about half the book. Because the fun was all in the throwback. One reviewer called The Impossible Fortress "a love letter to the 1980s" and I think that is a great description. All kinds of great pop culture and political references had me saying to myself, "Oh yeah! I remember that!" (And now that I have dated myself, let's move on with the review.)
The fun in it also comes from the fact that the boys are putting together this whole elaborate scheme to get a magazine. I really enjoyed the main trio for a few reasons. First -- they are all boys. So many books have done the "two boys and one girl" thing, and so many more books have done the four girls, so it was nice to have a unique set of protagonists. Rekulak also did a great job of establishing the deep bond between the boys.
It was also great to see Billy start falling for Mary because of her brains and her personality. He was in awe of the fact that she was a better programmer than he was, and he wanted to spend more time with her. From there, he started noticing things he liked about her -- the way her hair smelled, etc. He didn't reject her because she was fat, so good job Billy!
I was talking with one of the Simon publicists at the recent American Library Association Meeting and telling her about how I was currently reading the book. While I explained to her how it is a cute but predictable story she said, "There's actually a twist in there that I wasn't expecting." True story! Not a huge deal, but just a little reminder that things aren't always as they seem and you never know what another person is going through.
The Impossible Fortress had a happy and realistic ending. It does well as a standalone, because I feel that I left all the characters in a good place. This book comes out February 7th and if you are a child of the 80s, a video game aficionado, or just looking for a cute, awkward love story, I'd recommend you pick it up. I'm going to go play the game now (what a cool perk! Props!!)
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.