Growing up, the 1980s, video games, and a quest for a seemingly unattainable, yet entirely focus-consuming prize comprise the pages of The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak.
Fourteen year old Billy Marvin is a whiz with computers – so much so that he’s taught himself how to code games. When Playboy publishes an issue with scandalous photos of the country’s beloved Vanna White, Billy’s friends Alf and Clark are desperate to obtain a copy of the magazine at any cost. So they crack some schemes to buy a copy, which all go awry, moving them on to a plan to steal it. This plan involves getting the alarm code from a store whose owner’s daughter, Mary, also happens to be a computer genius. As Billy spends time with Mary, he gets the help and inspiration he needs to improve The Impossible Fortress, the game he’s been working on for the contest she told him about, causing him a personal dilemma of betraying her or his friends.
The writing and story was interesting, enjoyable, and entertaining, but I thought that the characters didn’t exhibit much growth or development, which was a bit frustrating for me; specifically, the way that Billy reacts when rebuffed by Mary seems dramatically and uncharacteristically reactionary and the way that Mary is “fooling everyone” was a bit of wild card thrown in the narrative without addressing it much. I was also a bit confused with the perspective in Billy’s life that he’s recounting this from – parts seem like concurrent with the events and other comments seem to be coming from a much older version of himself. While I understand that the quest to obtain Vanna’s photos in Playboy deservedly should play second fiddle to the developing relationship between Billy and Mary, it was a bit strange how it was originally so prominent only to be abandoned and then quickly returned to when the story needed something to push action forward toward its happy conclusion.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.
*I received an ARC of this title that had a different cover, which I prefer much, much more. I mean, just look at it!
**Side note: Knowing that this book comes from the genius publisher behind Quirk Books‘s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and that The Impossible Fortress game is real makes it so much cooler.