The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is a story of fourteen-year-old love in the late 1980’s: mostly love of girls and computers.
Billy Marvin is a fourteen-year-old closet videogame designer who is failing all of his classes because he spends all of his time in front of his Commodore 64. Billy is content programming and playing his own video games while failing his classes and talking about women’s breasts with his two best friends, that is until he meets Mary Zelinksy. Mary is the daughter of the local convenient store owner, and it is Mary who tells Billy about a video game design contest for kids under 18. Billy couldn’t be more excited, except for the fact that Mary tells him this while he is in the middle of trying to buy a Playboy magazine from Mary’s father. Needless to say, he leaves without the Playboy.
After this life changing event, Billy is pulled into a game of lies and deceit as he simultaneously tries to program a game with Mary, plot a plan to steal the Playboy magazine from Mary’s father’s store, and all while trying to keep his grades up. The life of a fourteen-year-old nerd.
While Rekulak does a fantastic job of keeping readers engaged and on their toes with his fast-paced prose and continual plot wrenches, where he falls short is with his gender normed stock characters who uphold all the worst and most common gendered stereotypes. Rekulak seems to argue that all young boys are horn dogs and all women care about is making themselves look good and getting laid.
Part of the issue is that Billy is telling the story from the future. So, not only at fourteen did he have the thoughts and desires in his head that he did, but looking back on it twenty odd years later, Billy thinks boys are just boys and they all think the same – they’re all jerks. Though Billy, and even some other characters, have a few redeeming qualities, overall their blanket stereotypical actions detract from the reader’s ability to ever get very close to them.
The Impossible Fortress will be released by Simon and Schuster on February 7, 2017. You can preorder a copy at your local bookstore today.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.