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Book review: 'The Impossible Fortress' a lighthearted coming-of-age tale based in the '80s

POSTED: April 18, 2017 10:51 a.m.
Herb Scribner/

"The Impossible Fortress" is by Jason Rekulak.

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"THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS," by Jason Rekulak, Simon & Schuster, $24, 304 pages (f) (ages 16 and up)

“The Impossible Fortress” proves to be a little more optimistic than its title would suggest, as what’s seemingly impossible becomes possible.

The new Jason Rekulak novel, which found its way to Entertainment Weekly’s Most Anticipated Books of 2017 list, is about a boy named Billy and his two friends Alf and Clark, who devise a heist plan to steal a Playboy magazine from a local general store.

The hiccup? Billy’s tasked with obtaining information from the store manager’s daughter, Mary. And they end up falling in love.

The book’s a great throwback to early ‘80s culture. It includes a host of cultural references to that time period, including nods to TV shows such as “Alf” and old-school video games like Pac-Man. It’s also a nod to early technological feats, as the novel focuses on a boy’s dream to build a video game using his Commodore 64. Part romance, part coming-of-age tale, the novel will have readers smiling gleefully, even at its darkest moments.

As crazy as the plot sounds, it's a little calmer than it seems. The story puts this group of boys in an impossible situation yet makes it possible for them to handle. What seems like a pipe-dream heist and goal to steal the magazine becomes entirely within reach, and the book spends a good chunk of time dealing with the consequences of that reality.

The book does have some drawbacks, though. The entire plot surrounds the boys’ plan to steal a Playboy, which is described several times over by the boys. And while this may be an inside joke about adolescents, it won’t sit well with parents or young adults who want to avoid mentions of pornography. Details about robbery, smoking cigarettes and lying to law enforcement also make the book not so family friendly.

That said, it’s still an entertaining read that captures the true essence of what it’s like to grow up and have a first crush. Anyone who wants to hark back to the days of their childhood will enjoy the read.

“The Impossible Fortress” contains mild profanity, sexual situations, mild acts of violence and mentions of pornographic material.

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