Combine Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One with Ellen Wittlinger’s Hard Love, add just a dash of Milk Money, and what do you get? The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak, a light read about teenage programmers in late-20th-century New Jersey that proved to be unputdownable.
On its surface, the plot of The Impossible Fortress is one that any ’80s or ’90s kid will recognize. It’s 1987 and 14-year-old Billy Marvin wants two things in life: 1) to make video games for a living, and 2) to see Vanna White naked in Playboy magazine. He and his friends hatch a number of harebrained schemes in their pursuit of Wheel of Fortune nudity, before deciding that the best way to get copies of the magazine would be to woo the security code of the local typewriter shop out of the proprietor’s daughter, Mary: a young woman of size, who has a reputation for promiscuity.
Billy takes on the challenge of teasing out the door code, but, like any good hero, he doesn’t want to manipulate Mary. With her love of computers, she’s a kindred spirit, and he feels genuine affection for her. Together, the two teens collaborate on a Commodore 64 game to win a contest for young programmers. They have just under a month to get The Impossible Fortress into the hands of Billy’s beloved gaming idol, who happens to be the contest judge. Along the way, there’s a lot of will-they-or-won’t-they going on, as readers watch Rekulak’s young hero falling in love with his smart and funny new friend.
The twists in Rekulak’s debut novel won’t surprise many readers, but that’s beside the point. The Impossible Fortress is a fun read that’s peppered heavily with nostalgia, but never weighed down by its own jokes.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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Image credit: Luca Boldrini