Publishing Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
The Premise from the Publisher: "Until May 1987, fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd. Afternoons are spent with his buddies, watching copious amounts of television, gorging on Pop-Tarts, debating who would win in a brawl (Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. Or T.J. Hooker?), and programming video games on his Commodore 64 late into the night. Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes. A love letter to the 1980s, to the dawn of the computer age, and to adolescence—a time when anything feels possible—The Impossible Fortress will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you remember in exquisite detail what it feels like to love something—or someone—for the very first time" (SS).
My overall thoughts and review: So before I get into my review, let me just admit quickly that I don't have a lick of knowledge regarding coding. I knew "of" it, but that was about it. I didn't realize how popular and accessible it has become. I was in a bookstore recently and they had coding books in the kids section to start them early! :O But let me tell you, whether or not you know anything about coding, you will immediately be drawn into the book. The narrator, Billy, brings you right into his world with an internal voice that is charming, hilarious and down-to-earth. You get to see Billy's silly interactions with his friends and their attempts at making a profit on Vanna White's playboy photos. The only problem for them is actually acquiring the Playboy magazine. Enter Mary Zelinsky. She is the daughter of the man who owns the convenience store that stocks the magazine. The boys encourage Billy to befriend her to get the passcode to the store so they can sneak in one night and get the magazine (not stealing ofc since they will be leaving the money in the cash register). However, Billy finds himself drawn to Mary and they actually end up bonding over coding and start working together to prepare a game worthy of submitting to a competition. I don't want to get much more into the plot details without spoiling the book, but this was such an enjoyable read. Although the characters was frustrating at times, the book talks about falling in love for the first time, making sacrifices and the significance of family, all through an 80s-lens. I found myself laughing and grinning so much while reading this book. I also loved all the coding bits throughout the book and I must say the map that the boys drew to get the magazine is my absolute favorite. I also loved how music played an important part of the book too. Overall, I think this is a great read simply for anyone because it tugs at your heart strings in all the right places and gives you complex and fully fleshed out characters. When the story ended, I was sad to say goodbye to Billy and Mary, since they felt so vivid to me. But let me tell you.. the game that Billy and Mary put together in the book? There's a version of it on Jason Rekulak's website!! -> click here to play The Impossible Fortress! I've tried a few times and it is so much fun. Please give it a shot after reading the book. It gives you a whole new level of appreciation for coders and all their intricate work :D
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)
Available for purchase at:
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1. Is there a character in the book that you identify with most?
Billy, the narrator. I had all of his ambition and all of his insecurities. And I borrowed many of his biographical details from real life. I was obsessed with a Commodore 64. I lived on a street that would flood after rainstorms. I grew up in a town that was very much like Wetbridge. And my grades were not so great (don’t tell my kids!).2. What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?
I didn’t really write this book with the idea of readers taking away a message or lesson. All I really wanted to do was tell a fun and interesting story with hopefully a few surprises along the way. I’m a big believer in reading for entertainment. I like books that are fun; I don’t think literature (or so-called “literary fiction”) needs to be a slog. I’ve always enjoyed funny big-hearted stories about flawed people with good intentions, and that’s what I tried to write.3. What advice would you have for aspiring writers?
I’m afraid it’s all the same advice you’ll get from anyone else. Be patient. Read everything you can get your hands on. Write every day. And maybe most importantly, do not underestimate the value of your own autobiography. Who could have guessed that all the years I spent tinkering with a Commodore 64 computer would somehow become the inspiration for a novel? But now here we are!4. Your book made me laugh on multiple occasions and had me grinning A LOT. Can you remember a book that made you laugh and grin like crazy?
Thank you, I’m glad you were laughing. I get this question a lot and my answer is usually Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. It is very funny and the story is terrific. But in case you’ve already read that one, I can also recommend a book that is pubbing in July: Swimming with Bridgeport Girls by Anthony Tambakis. I read a galley of it last month and I was grinning the whole time.5. Any upcoming new projects?
We’ve arrived at a really interesting point in history so I’m trying to write something more contemporary. Though I expect it is going to be another funny, big-hearted story about flawed people with good intentions!Thank you, Jason, for taking the time to answer these questions for me. I will definitely be on the lookout for those new releases you mentioned and I can't wait to see what you write next! :D
Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour!
Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada for participation in the book tour. All opinions of the book are my own.