The Impossible Fortress
(Simon & Schuster)
A Boy and his journery.
Author: Jason Rekulak
Reader Appeal: Ages 12 and up
Alright Generation X, lace up your Chuck Taylors, pop your Izod collar and grab your Members Only Jacket! We’re headed back to 1987. The Bangles walk like Egyptians, Madonna wanted us to open our heart and Huey Lewis told us it was hip to be square.
Billy and his friends Alf and Clark are 14 years old and the biggest news is not Ronald Reagan and Iran, it’s not the new ice cream flavor “Cherry Garcia”, it’s not even “The Drive”. No what has the boy’s attention is Vanna White and her pictures in Playboy magazine, and they set out on a quest to own their copy.
In 1987, most homes did not have a home computer but Billy did, his mom won a Commodore 64 and Billy becomes infatuated with it, he writes his own code and he programs his own games. Billy’s friends don’t share his fascination with this new technology but Mary Zelinsky does and Mary’s dad happens to owns the only store in town that sells Playboy.
The boys hatch a plan or two or three and each one is more dangerous than the last. Meanwhile Billy and Mary are bonding over the Commodore 64, creating a game that they want to enter in a contest.
The story like the boy’s quest goes off the rails. The author gets a little lost in a side story and ties it up too awkwardly. Billy is the main character but Mary steals the show. She’s a girl who gets technology and in the early days of computers it was a boy’s tool. Mary informs Billy that women practically invented programming and then lists a half dozen names of women that made contributions to the computer world. It’s not enough to call it a girl power book but it’s a nice thought.
The Impossible Fortress is a quick read. It has no life lesson to learn (except maybe porn only leads to trouble). It’s not going to change your life and you’ll even dislike the boys more than you like them, I certainly did. But the walk down memory lane was fun, I found myself humming to some long-forgotten songs and remembering my life in 1987.
Let's Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this book:
• What do you remember as the best time of your life? Why?
• If you were hanging out with Billy in 1987, what would you want to talk about?
• Twenty years from now, what do you think people will be remembering about your life today? What do you WANT them to remember?
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