The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson.

13453104289 pages

Published March 1st 2013 by Arthur A. Levine

Palmares Trés, Brazil. 400 years after the end of the world. Technology has advanced a lot and people can live for up to two hundred and fifty years. Palmares Trés doesn’t get into the whole tech thing quite as much as other cities – in the future Tokyo, the people there actually download themselves into code and live in the cloud. There is debate over whether the Brazilian city should allow more tech/body modifications/etc or not. They are very passionate about art, in all it’s forms.

Palmares Trés is run by women. They have a Queen who rules the city with just the help of the ‘Aunties’ (leaders) for most of the time, but every five years the city elects a Summer King. At the end of his very short term, he is sacrificed. In his last moments, it is his job is to elect a new Queen (or reinstate the current one). The kings die so that their choice of the new Queen can be irrevocable, unassailable, and unprejudiced. After all, there’s no time for corruption when your throat is being cut. 

June is a young artist. She has just been chosen as a finalist for the Queen’s Award – a prestigious award that can change your whole life if you win. The current Queen was a winner herself, back in the day.

Enki has just been elected as Summer King. He too is an artist. Together, he and June work on anonymous and amazing art projects around the city.

Gil is June’s best friend. He is a beautiful dancer. Enki has just picked him as his most public consort.

But things are changing in the city of Palmares Trés. And Enki and June are at the centre of it all.

The Summer Prince was definitely different than I expected. The description made it sound like a love story, and though there is love here, there’s no way I would call it a romance, or even romantic. It’s more about the city, I think – it’s outdated customs and the way it needs to change or adapt. I wouldn’t say that I particularly connected with any of the characters.

I did like it, I think. My feelings are a bit complicated, actually.

It’s separated into the four seasons. There aren’t any chapters, which makes it harder to read, I find. It’s just that I like to stop a reading session at a new chapter. There are plenty of page breaks, so that’s something. Also, it was a bit slow to get into, but at about the hundred page mark, it started to click for me.

I’m not sure that I would really call this a young adult novel, either. There were some pretty mature themes, and even the writing itself was harder to read than your usual young adult pickings.

The most complicated thing of all, I found, was the way that sexuality had been redefined. There are no straight/gay/bi people – same gender couples are just as ordinary as mixed gender couples. Everyone just gets with everyone, and that’s the norm. I had to essentially reset my brain to try and get around that concept. Sex didn’t seem to be mean much, though. At one point, June says that she and Gil took care of their ‘virginity problem’ years ago, like it’s nothing.

I can’t even really pin down a proper genre. I guess, sci-fi? It’s a tricky one, is The Summer Prince.

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