Genres: Young Adult, Coming of Age
Summary: 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.
My thoughts: The Impossible Fortress is a story about three teenage boys in the 80’s trying their hardest to get a copy of a Playboy magazine because- well, they’re teenage boys. What seemed like an easy mission turns into one that seems impossible for them. Enter Mary, the key to getting the Playboy magazine because her father owns a store that sells them. Billy reluctantly befriends her in hopes of getting closer to the treasured magazine only to realize that Mary has the same love for computer programming that he does. They begin to work together to create a video game in the midst of Billy’s mission with his best friends which changes his entire mindset. It creates a series of obstacles for Billy to get over once he begins to realize that maybe his crush on Mary is more important than the magazine.
Billy and his friends reminded me greatly of the trio in Stranger Things from their banter to the wild missions they go on together. Their friendship really brightens the story and adds humor into every chapter because of the naive hopefulness they have during their ploys to get a risque magazine. But what did bother me about their friendship was how they all seemed to make fun of one friend’s physical disability that is never called out as offensive. Their strong friendship seemed to break apart, in my eyes, every time the friends commented about the physical disability as something gross. I also didn’t enjoy how they continually fat-shamed Mary for being overweight when Billy was developing a crush on her. It was never called out as well and I wished Billy stood up for Mary whenever his friends made fun of her.
What I did love was the setting. I have hardly ever read a book in my home state of New Jersey, so seeing it described so accurately really captured my attention. Along with the vivid setting, I also enjoyed the references to the 80’s from the movies to the technology that was used at the time. Although I wasn’t born during the 80’s, I appreciated that sense of nostalgia that came along with the overall tone of the story.
I wouldn’t say this was my most favorite story from the fat shaming, ableism, and the overall character arc for Billy. I feel like he didn’t learn his lesson which would have salvaged the storyline some more if his character was developed some more. At the end of the book, Billy still seemed to be the same kid from the beginning of the story, only he learned more about programming. His character definitely needed to be changed over time rather than staying at a stand still. The story also needed its ending to be stretched out in order to wrap it up in a cleaner way that didn’t feel like everything was conveniently falling into place. The problems were solved too quick for me to appreciate. I wish I enjoyed this story more, but it just was not for me.
WARNINGS FOR FAT SHAMING / ABLEISM
* I RECEIVED A PHYSICAL COPY OF THIS BOOK FROM THE PUBLISHER IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. Thank you! *