Thursday, May 16, 2013

YA Sci-Fi: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Date: March 1, 2013
Format: hardback
Source: GoodReads First Look
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 290
Reading time: three days

From GoodReads: 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.

My review: There were parts of The Summer Prince that I just loved and parts that confused me. I loved how different this was from other YA sci-fi novels: it's set in futuristic Brazil, and the background to the setting contains elements of Brazilian culture and the Candomble religion. Also, the society of Palmares Tres is obviously feminist, something which I haven't found much, if at all, in other recent YA dystopias. The novel just had a completely different feel to it than many others of the genre. The plot was pleasingly unpredictable - aside from the love triangle, which does have some twists of its own, there's few of the cliches of this brand of science fiction.

But there were aspects of the novel, however, that were not entirely satisfactory. I never got a good feel for June's character and what she actually felt and wanted. Her emotions and beliefs felt ambiguous. There were other times when it seemed like the reader was dumped too much in the middle of the futuristic society, with new technology and other elements popping up mid-novel without previous explanation. It took a while to figure out the political arrangement and jargon of Palmares Tres, and there were points where the plot just didn't seem to come entirely together. This had the potential to be an utterly stunning novel, but I think the issues in its details demote it to simply a decent and interesting read.

Maturity factor: Sexual content. Much discussion of sexuality, including LGBTQ relationships, with which some readers may not feel comfortable. (Personally, I'm a prude when it comes to sexual morality, and I felt a bit uncomfortable at times with the promiscuity of certain characters.)

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