Queer · Sci-Fi · YA

Review: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince coverThis book is too beautiful for words. It tore my soul into bloody little pieces and broke my heart, and now I’ll read all the rest of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s books and every one she ever writes for the rest of her life, even if none of them are this good, because they might be.

Here’s the description:

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.

I wish I had better words to describe it… It’s about art. How our lives can be art, too. About getting lost in the passion of the choices you make, and trying to leave your mark as a better, larger person than you are. It’s about all the social justice conversations you could ever want to have. It’s about a love triangle I can actually get behind — where all three parties love each other, in so many different ways, and they can navigate each of those relationships differently and simultaneously. Love can mean so many things, least of all sex, but not downplaying its relevance either. This story loves life and intensity so much that the book itself is sexy. I should also note that the worldbuilding is really interesting, as the book takes place in a futuristic dystopian Brazil.

There are plenty of reviewers who didn’t like this book, as is their right, but I suggest where many go wrong is that this book isn’t meant to be analytical. This book is meant to be experienced, like June’s art is meant to be experienced. You get the worldbuilding at the wham moment, not at the moment when you first wonder something. And I’m sorry, but teenagers do have sex and do have extremely intense feelings, as often as they’re told not to do either. Maybe this isn’t a “school reading list” book, but not everything has to be. I love that June and the others have such transcendent relationships, with each other and with their definitions of art, and I kind of love that they’re so casual about it, because they’re anything but casual about it. I’m not sure this book is “realistic,” but if it’s not, it’s more than that.

I’m experimenting with direct posts from Goodreads to WordPress, please forgive any oddities while I’m seeing how this works! Hopefully this will let me make some extra review posts this semester, since I review all the books I read on Goodreads anyway, and some of them oughta be good enough to post here. It’s not working right now though, so tips are appreciated.

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

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