“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.”
The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is a weird case. When I first read the book, I loved it. The Ready Player One-esque vibe, nerdy references, and solid character all made for a very good book. But as the days went on and I chewed on it more, there’s not much more to it. It’s predictable and the supporting characters such as Alf and Clark are one-dimensional characters who stay exactly the same throughout the book. However, the book nails the naivety of being a teenager and the need to appease others combined with a solid romance.
Billy was a solid main character. He is the typical slacker who spends his time programming rather than going off to school. At the same time, he is likeable and you understand just what he is doing. I’m sure at some point in our lives, we felt as if we needed everyone to like us and we may even to whatever it takes to do so. That naivety and single-minded thinking is very much of a teenager and Rekulak does a good job of illustrating that without making him stupid or a terrible person. His relationship with his mom was well done providing some nice emotional moments. Of course, his love interest is Mary. An attractive, albeit a bit overweight girl who just like him loves to program. Their romance was solid, as well (I think there is a pattern developing here). It is very much a first love and Rekulak does a good job of portraying the uncertainty and confusion as their relationship progresses and draws them closer. She does not develop as much as I hoped, but still well done. Unfortunately, besides those 3 characters, the supporting characters are flat and one-dimensional. Mary’s dad is the typical grumpy overprotective dad who warms up to Billy, Alf and Clark are the best friends, etc.
The actual plot of the book revolves around a game called the, you guessed it, the impossible fortress. Taking place in the 1980’s, there are numerous pop culture references and it feels all very Ready Player One (which is not a bad thing mind you). But the plot is very predictable and besides a plot twist-ish, there’s not much depth beneath it. Although, I still found the book itself to be a very good representation of being a teenager and that is what the author primarily sets out to do.
All in all, The Impossible Fortress has a predictable plot and weak supporting characters yet, the solid main character and romance with a very good representation of being a teenager culminates in a solid and charming novel.
Rating: Must Buy on sale