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The Summer Prince Hardcover – 2013
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*Starred Review* After a nuclear winter, survivors in Brazil build the towering pyramid city of Palmares Tres, where every five years an elected king chooses a queen, lives for a year, and is then sacrificed. Privileged, rebellious young artist June Costa is mesmerized by this year’s election, and she fiercely favors Enki, a beautiful boy from the bottom tier, the world of the algae vats and the perpetual stink. After his election, June and her best friend are drawn into Enki’s world. With only a year to live, he is a brilliant and fast-burning star whose light opens June’s eyes to the serious issues—and corruption—affecting her city, and with her art, she helps to release a surge of discontent. In this YA debut, Johnson paints a brilliant picture of a seemingly lush paradise hiding a core rotted by class stratification, creative stagnation, and disenfranchisement. Evocative, disturbing, and exhilarating, this story leaves much for the reader to ponder, from the nuanced characters to fascinating central themes, including the impact of technology and the role of isolationism in a perilous world. Like leaping into cold water on a hot day, this original dystopian novel takes the breath away, refreshes, challenges, and leaves the reader shivering but yearning for another plunge. Grades 9-12. --Lynn Rutan
As the trio dances-often literally-around one another, June must negotiate between the extremes of stasis and post-humanism, learn to see beyond herself, discover the meaning of integrity, and maybe even save her rotten-at-the-core and best-beloved city. Luminous.” -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
In this YA debut, Johnson paints a brilliant picture of a seemingly lush paradise hiding a core rotted by class stratification, creative stagnation, and disenfranchisement. Evocative, disturbing, and exhilarating, this story leaves much for the reader to ponder, from the nuanced characters to fascinating central themes, including the impact of technology and the role of isolationism in a perilous world. Like leaping into cold water on a hot day, this original dystopian novel takes the breath away, refreshes, challenges, and leaves the reader shivering but yearning for another plunge.” -- Booklist, starred review
In precise prose Johnson evokes an utterly foreign setting, complete with technologies that push at the limits of what it means to be human, and the relationships that delineate the social landscape are intriguingly unconventional and startling in their intensity. The story itself is thematically rich, encompassing the political nature of art in a time of vast upheaval, the potential of power to corrupt, the tension between tradition and innovation, and the toils and rewards of underground creative expression . An imaginative and thoroughly realized addition to the sci-fi genre.” -- Horn Book
"There's a great, fresh audacity to Johnson's YA debut." -- Entertainment Weekly
Rife with political turmoil and seeped in culture, this unique and highly fantastical dystopian romance is both intriguing and imaginative. Johnson excels at building rich and gorgeously complex worlds, and her prose shines with a sophistication that's uncommon in YA literature. This beautifully written novel will likely find a home with fans of Alison Croggon and Rachel Hartman.” -- School Library Journal
Top customer reviews
Now to the bad side of the book - the world-building is distinctly weak. There are huge differences in tech levels between cities: people in Tokyo have mind uploads and people in Salvador have access to nano-machines capable of universal assembly. It's just not plausible that this sort of technology can not be smuggled into Palmares Três. And it's just not plausible that such a gap can be supported for 400 years.
Palmares Três itself is also weak. Citizens there have at least a limited access to nanotech and semi-sentient AIs, but people still work at menial jobs. Energy is produced by vats of algae in form of hydrogen gas (tip to the author: it's NOT poisonous) with the side-effect of making the lowest levels of the city incredibly smelly. It would have been trivial to switch to solar panels or isolate the vats from the atmosphere properly even without the wonder-tech of the future.
No, what makes this book interesting are characters and social commentary. Society in Palmares Três is really an inversion of our society. Women are in charge and men are considered to be the gentler sex (so it's considered OK for boys to cry but not for girls) and there are no men in the power structure (Aunties, but not Uncles) apart from the Kings. Bisexuality is considered so normal that there are no comments about it at all (which is a comment in itself, of course). Assisted suicides are OK. And so on...
And then there's the central theme of the book - of a society built on a ritual human sacrifice (even voluntary one). It's brilliantly written, go and read it.
Oh, and then there's a link to the Epic of Gilgamesh - Enki and Gil are partially inspired by Enkidu and Gilgamesh. I wonder why no other reviewers caught this link...
PARENTS: If you're planning on buying this book for your teens then read the thing first before gifting it. It is not as watered down as most YA where the romance is all doe-eyed looks, lip biting and heavy sighs. It wasn't graphic or anything but it deals with love and sex contextually and culturally. Quite frankly this book is so much more than the love interest aspect that if that's the only thing anyone is seeing they're not reading for the rest of the subtextual content that is concerned with growing up and finding one's place in society. It's the latter part that makes this dystopian novel so compelling in my opinion. It paints a portrait of a city that has survived the apocalypse and reinvented itself - finding ways for society to cope and survive. The culture has moved beyond the end of the old world and is struggling with how to embrace the new. But like most societies there's a conservative core that are unwilling to continue evolving and adapting, which is part of the core problem. Not all change is good. But little to no change can be worse.
I definitely recommend this book.
Most recent customer reviews
***I won this novel from IReadYA and Scholastic. However, all opinions are my own.Read more
I received The Summer Prince as a part of a package giveaway at the Dystopian YA panel at bookcon, and after hearing Johnson...Read more