The first time I read anything written by Alaya Dawn Johnson I was fourteen years old. She wrote my most favourite fanfiction of all time. I’m not going to go into details here but it was Sailor Moon, and involved chickens, and accidental nudity and traveling between worlds and magic and painting.
She also wrote another amazing one without any fantasy that involved Shakespeare and peaches.
To say I wanted to get my hands on this book a lot is an understatement. So when it was at ALA this past January, I snatched it up like nobody’s business.
The lush city of Palmares Tres 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 Tres 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.
Basically I loved this book. And I don’t know how to describe this love. The writing was dense and beautiful. The world was exotic and familiar and futuristic and crumbling with age. It was timeless.
The grittiness of the characters, the starkness of their sexuality and the friendships. The people were just so well rounded and well written. The characters were all complicated and their relationships were all complicated. A friend asked me if there was a love triangle in this book and…well…I honestly don’t know how to answer that. If I say no they could call me liar but yes isn’t the right answer either.
The characters and their relationships with each other were not black and white. Rivals were also friends who helped each other. Friends were in love with the same person but still wanted the best for each other. And I loved, loved, LOVED that no one was defined by their sexuality. Girls had sex with boys. Boys had sex with boys. Girls had sex with girls. No one had any problems with this or tried to define it as anything other than people being in relationships. It was awesome.
June, the main character is an artist. A grieving artist who starts the book off angry at the world. Or, angry at herself for not being enough to keep her father alive and taking it out on the people around her. I really enjoyed watching her progression throughout the novel. She went from being a bitter teenager, to a rebellious artist to a passionate activist. When through it all she just wanted to create beautiful things that MEANT something to the world. She was never perfect but always felt like someone real. Someone who wasn’t sure which direction she wanted her life to take and kept making mistakes and I just wanted to be her friend. Though I was pretty sure she was to cool to be friends with me.
And Gil was such a darling. They balanced each other out quite well. And I loved, loved, loved that both Gil and June were in love with Enki but in very different ways and in ways that didn’t stop them from being friends or from being in love. It wasn’t really a love triangle because no one was trying to win.
And Enki. He was a perfect mix of mysterious, untouchable (even though he touched everyone), and inhuman. And yet, really, really human? Like an Every-man character. He was so different in his sameness.
I can’t describe him. These three worked so well together though.
It’s a complicated story about love and loss and bitterness and the newness of being young and jadedness of being old. And life. At it’s core I thought the book was about relationships and connecting with people and the important of being alive and together. Being connected to people and to the world.
There’s a lot I haven’t gone into because there is too much to cover. I will simply say in the grand sea of dystopia YA The Summer Prince feels like a completely new take on the genre and is one of my favourites.