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.
I am an 80’s obsessive so absolutely had to read this when I read the synopsis.
The premise is absolutely crazy – not ever having been a teenage boy, do they really feel so desperate to get a copy of Playboy to go to such lengths? Really? It was really good fun though. And the starting point for the ACTUAL heart & soul of the story of Billy & Mary and the Impossible Fortress…
Billy, Clark and Alf are 14 year-old boys who hatch a plan to steal a copy of Playboy as part of a money making scheme. Billy however becomes way more interested in entering a computer coding competition and needs the daughter of the store that sells the Playboy magazine’s help to get his game to work properly. Getting close to Mary means he can fix his game (the competition prize being a state of the art computer) as well as getting the alarm code for the shop to give to his friends…
As you have probably guessed things don’t quite go to plan… Mayhem ensues on the heist, people are double crossed, hearts are broken, trust is lost, friends fall out, teenage angst a plenty as well as multiple versions of the same story.
I really enjoyed this, however I found the representation of Clark’s “Claw” a bit harsh, as well as the obsession over Playboy mildly excessive. It was a really easy fun read, with a lot of heart, and definitely had me filled with 80s nostalgia, it is just that parts of it fell a little flat, and I wanted a more satisfying ending.
Received a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Finished on May 14th 2017
You can buy the book here if you wish