Billy is a teenager on a mission. Like all boys his age in 1987 he is desperate to get his hands on the copy of Playboy featuring American sweetheart Vanna White. But with him and his friends being just fourteen years old they cannot just rock up to the register of Zelinsky's convenience store to buy a copy. They need to come up with a plan. And quick, before this edition of the magazine is replaced by a newer version.
Together with his friends, Billy formulates a scheme that involves seducing Zelinsky's teenage daughter Mary to get his hands on the shop's security code. They're not planning to rob the place, instead they want to sneak out a magazine – or two – and leave the money for it on the counter.
But while the plan sounded fairly straight forward, what Billy hadn't counted on was that he'd enjoy spending time with Mary. They're both computer nerds and they spent hours pouring over the code of Billy's game The Impossible Fortress, hoping to quicken and slicken it up to be able to enter a national contest.
Will Billy and his mates get their hands on the much-sought-after copy of Playboy? And will Billy and Mary be able to finish the game before the competition's deadline? Or, none of the above...?
Before diving into the 80s fun that is The Impossible Fortress, I expected big hair, bright neon leggings and AC/DC tracks around every corner. What I actually got was a heavy dose of geeky references about the first personal computers (including an in hindsight hilarious way to 'email' people) wrapped into an action-packed adventure along the likes of The Goonies (when it comes to friendships at least as there are no pirates in this book, alas).
I fell in love with Billy and his friends from the very first page and despite their stubborn, self-centred, single-minded, impossible mission, I couldn't help but feel charmed by their antics and sheer determination to get their teenage fingers on the elusive Vanna photos. Though while perhaps that is what kick-started their mission, it was actually Billy and Mary's growing friendship that kept me hooked until that final page.
There were definitely some eye-roll moments along the way (but what do you expect with teenage boys filled with raging hormones), but ultimately The Impossible Fortress was an absolutely delightful coming-of-age tale. It was nerdy, it was quirky, and it was right up my 80s-paved street.
Top tip: When you've finished reading the book, make sure you pop over to the author's website to play The Impossible Fortress, which is super fun!
The Impossible Fortress is published by Faber & Faber and you can get your copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
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