Sometimes a book is so endearing and nostalgic to teenage years that you can’t help getting brought along for the ride. For me, The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is one of these stories. The book feels like a shout-out to all the teenagers who feel out of place and awkward.
Billy is a fourteen-year-old teenager who spends most of his time hanging out with his friends, playing video games, and thinking about girls while also avoiding them. Despite having terrible grades in school, Billy’s brilliant with computers and has taught himself to code his own games.
When an edition of Playboy is released featuring Vanna White, Billy and his two best friends will do just about anything to see the photos. Because they’re under eighteen (and cannot legally purchase the magazine), they develop an elaborate plot to get their hands on a copy. In the process, Billy meets Mary Zelinsky and everything changes. She’s an expert programmer and together they develop The Impossible Fortress, a video game, to enter in a large competition. Of course the plan gets off track and Billy finds himself torn between what he knows is right and peer pressure.
One of the major themes of the book is sharing what it feels like to be a teenager when anything feels possible and you’re at the beginning of rest of your life. I really felt for Billy, a shy, hopeful, and at times, naïve kid. Despite his principal openly telling him that his future is drear and video game programming isn’t a career option, he works even harder to complete The Impossible Fortress. I was rooting for him!
In the end I was a bit confused about Mary’s motivations (Jason Rekulak, I have a few questions for you!) that I don’t feel were well explained, but overall this book is really good! The Impossible Fortress shares many similarities with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (which I really liked as well) and I recommend both!
I thought this quote sums up Billy’s teenage temperament well:
“I didn’t try to compete with either of them. All I knew was that I didn’t know anything.”