Review of an ARC provided by the wonderful NetGalley

The Impossible Fortress is a coming-of-age tale, following the hi-jinx of teenager Billy Marvin, wannabe video game creator, as he fumbles his way through life, love, and the quest for illicit adult material. Along with his friends Alf and Clark, Billy experiences love at first sight when he lays eyes on a Playboy magazine with Wheel of Fortune human prop Vanna White on the cover. The three pals hatch an elaborate plot to steal copies of the magazine from a local store, copy the pages, and make a little money distributing the adult images to the horny young men at their school. This is what 80s teenagers had to resort to in order to see a boob or two, kids.

In the process of scoping out the potential final crime scene, Billy meets Mary, the daughter of the store-owner, and they quickly find a shared interest in all things tech. So not only does Billy have to navigate an elaborate heist, he now has to deal with an almost unbeatable end-of-level boss; his first crush.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Billy and Mary also embark on designing a video game for a competition that could change their lives forever. While their combined skills surely make for an ideal partnership, Mary seems hesitant. WIth all the other stuff going on in Billy’s life, that’s one mystery that will have to unsolved. For now. 

What seems like a simple, heartwarming story is endearingly funny, rich, and constantly surprising. Billy is an immensely character, with all the teenage confusion and conflicting emotion that most of us remember, but would love to forget. 

Some aspects of the plot may seem familiar to those who grew up on a steady diet of John Hughes. The unconventional female love interest, the gawky but lovable hero, and the token bad boy. But it contains enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested. It’s a quick read, thanks to the easily-digestible writing style, as well as the consistently engaging plot. 

The Impossible Fortress is a gorgeous little YA caper, full of nostalgia, humor, and heart. Although possibly more appropriate for those of us who remember the 80s, rather than those with parents born in that iconic decade, everyone will enjoy the themes of friendship, love, and seemingly impossible challenges.

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