Review: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Title: The Summer Prince
Author: Alaya Dawn Johnson
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Page #: 289
ISBN: 0545417791

Goodreads + Author's Website

Goodreads Summary
A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.
The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.
Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.
Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.

One of the first things so apparent about The Summer Prince is that Johnson talks frankly about race, class, sexual orientation, sex, love, death, and more. This book covers everything and doesn't apologize for any of it. Nothing in this book feels like it was forced in, nor does any of it feels like Johnson put it in because she had to.

Another element of the book that I would congratulate Johnson on was how she wrote a sci-fi novel set in the future without making it sound campy or confusing. The descriptions of Palmares Tres feel natural, none of it forced. Because of this it feels like a location one could logically visit instead of just some fantasy land that we know is rooted in fiction.

The one thing that I am most thankful for in The Summer Prince has to be the unconventional love triangle that June has found herself in. There's no cattiness, no betrayal, and the emotions that flow between the three main characters feels as natural as can be. This is a book about loving, not fighting, and honors old ties more than it does new flames, something that I feel many modern young adult writers are reluctant to pursue for the sake of preserving the age-old love triangle cliche of, "There can only be one."

That's where my sympathies with June ceased, though. Many times I was left wondering why she did what she did, or why the story was taking her in the direction that it was going. Some of her choices didn't feel natural, but instead were spontaneous (in a not-good way) for the sake of pushing the novel forward. I had some troubles linking up with her on a personal level, particularly towards the end. Still, I honor Johnson's decision to make her the narrator and feel that seeing the events of The Summer Prince unfold through her eyes was the best choice for the story.

The Summer Prince is not only a wonderful story about love and death, but also a real step in the right direction for young adult fiction. Johnson writes frankly about sexuality, class, and questioning the status quo and her work deserves to be recognized and held as an example for what young adult fiction can be.

Four and a half stars!

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