In the spirit of my upcoming YA Book Club meeting, I thought I’d do a review of The Impossible Fortress since I really enjoyed the book.
Set in 1987, Billy and his friends, Alf and Clark set out to obtain a copy of Playboy featuring Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White on the cover. When their simple (but hilarious) mission of convincing their local shopkeeper that they’re businessmen buying office supplies turns to dust they turn to the infamous ‘bad boy’ Tyler Bell for help who in turn transforms it into a full-scale heist. There’s only one thing missing: the passcode and the only person who can give it is Mary Zelinsky, the shopkeeper’s daughter.
The story and writing is light, humorous, clever and straightforward with a delightful cast of characters and I found this book to be a breath of fresh air. This is a summer/holiday read for sure. It’s definitely something to take your mind off the very terrifying things going on in the world right now and just dive into a world of innocent romance, thrilling escapades, sweet friendships, optimism and, of course, 80’s nostalgia.
The characters reminded me of the four main characters in Stand By Me but with different interests. I researched an interview by the author on the book and with a “yup, I knew it!” I discovered that The Body by Stephen King (Stand By Me was the film adaptation) was one of the inspirations. You can check out his interview here, guy’s pretty awesome: http://www.simonandschuster.ca/books/The-Impossible-Fortress/Jason-Rekulak/9781501166839/reading_group_guide
Billy, our main character, is reminiscent of Gordie Lachance. Simple, practical and reasonable with an added love of programming. He has a mechanical mind which makes him a force to be reckoned with when paired with Mary Zelinsky who has an engineer’s mind. Mary is, by far, my favourite character in this book. She is intelligent, insightful, decisive, warm and friendly. She’s the Chris Chambers of this book. Mary’s father is the stereotypical father with a tough exterior but is a big ol’ softie on the inside.
Moving on to Alf, think Teddy Duchamp 2.0, ideas with realisation. You will be stumped by his intelligence, I certainly did not see it coming. Clark, on the other hand has a deformity (read that literally) that leaves him highly sensitive with low self-esteem despite being extremely attractive. That doesn’t stop him from being an amazing, kind, thoughtful and loyal friend.
Billy’s mother is hard-working, reliable, kind and generous. What was most notable to me was that she recognised what her son needed to have a prosperous future and she was willing to revoke sanctions that she imposed on computer privileges. She’s the parent we all want and need. This brings me to a very important, relevant and insightful quote I discovered in this book:
“You can teach an elephant to tap-dance, but you won’t enjoy the show and neither will the elephant.’”
Billy is intelligent enough to program his own computer games, but his grades are abysmal. Why do you think he struggles in school? Do you know any people who struggled in high school? What are they doing now?
Now, I’m a huge champion of education when done correctly but I do believe that the educational system, whether in the US or the UK can limit and restrict and cater only towards certain careers and personality types. I think there are resources and programs out there that can enable young people to get a taste of what a certain career can offer them for instance the NCS ‘The Challenge’ summer program (http://www.ncsthechallenge.org/programme/ncs-summer-programme/) but this only starts in college and by that time they will already have chosen their A Levels/the equivalent. I don’t think there is enough guidance available during Secondary school/high school and this is when it needs to start because these times are competitive and the earlier we can start, the better chances our youth can have instead of having to take detours, twists and turns in our 20’s until we find out what our passion really is which can make for a sluggish start.
An alternative is instead of the school choosing work experience for us, we should be able to discuss what our interests are and gain work experience in our field(s) of interest. That could potentially create networking opportunities allowing us a foot in the door when students start looking for part-time work in college and/or internships while in university.
I remember when I was studying English Language in college and it was vastly different to my experience of studying the subject in secondary school. In secondary school, English Language was a flexible and fun subject, we chose our content, we chose the format whether it was a story, letter, an article or a feature. Once I got to college, it was only travel features we got to write and analyse which I found quite suffocating. Now, I hear from my younger sister that this is what they now study in English Language. Yes, I know, I’ve heard many say that if you want to be a story-teller you need the ability to be chameleon-like, embrace and take on the basics. BUT what if you already know what you want to do? And what if it’s not writing travel features? What if you simply enjoy writing stories? Not everyone aspires to be a George Martin or a Bill Bryson. I think there needs to be a greater communication between educators and students, for sure.
You can buy your copy of The Impossible Fortress at your local Waterstones (Leadenhall Market and Piccadilly Circus are my favourite ones with the latter having a café available downstairs): https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-impossible-fortress/jason-rekulak/9780571330621
Alternatively, if you’d like me to do a book review for you, my information is available in my about/profile section.