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Cover of The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org

 

Publishers Weekly

PW Reviews 2013 January #2

Eighteen-year-old artist June Costa is a citizen of Palmares Três, a vertically structured city in what was once Brazil, with the rich at the top, the poor at the bottom, and a vital tradition of music and dance. Its centenarian queen keeps a tight rein on the tech—electronic and pharmaceutical—that allows for intensive state security and bodily modification. Privileged but rebellious June and her best friend Gil live on Tier Eight, and when they get involved with Enki, a beautiful bottom-tier resident who will serve a year as the summer king before his ritual sacrifice, her political art gains attention, and things get dangerous. In her YA debut, Johnson (the Spirit Binders series) depicts a future that’s recognizably Brazilian and human—June may have nanohooks, holo screens, and light implants, but 400 years on, teens still resent their parents and find ways to subvert the technology their elders theoretically control. With its complicated history, founding myth, and political structure, Palmares Três is compelling, as is the triple bond between June, Enki, and Gil as they challenge their world’s injustices. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

School Library Journal

SLJ Reviews 2013 April

Gr 9 Up—Four hundred years earlier, the Y Plague nearly decimated the world’s male population. Upon the ruins of Brazil, Queen Odete constructed the pyramid city of Palmares Três. Here artist June Costa, 16, dreams of greatness, but instead finds herself tangled in an unusual and tragic love triangle involving her friend Gil and Enki, the rebellious Summer King who must die at year’s end so the city and its complex matrilineal political system can continue to thrive. While Enki chooses Gil as his lover, he is impressed with June’s daring, and they collaborate to create groundbreakingly memorable artwork. But as Enki’s inevitable sacrifice draws near, the two flee Palmares Três, a move that will shake the very foundation of their city’s future. 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.—Alissa J. Bach, Oxford Public Library, MI

[Page 164]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist

Booklist Reviews 2013 April #2

*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. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

The Horn Book

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall

Four hundred years after nuclear war devastated the world, the Brazilian city of Palmares Trjs thrives as an isolationist matriarchy. In precise prose Johnson evokes an utterly foreign setting complete with technologies that push at the limits of what it means to be human. The relationships that delineate the social landscape are intriguingly unconventional and startling in their intensity.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #2

Four hundred years after nuclear war devastates the world, the Brazilian city of Palmares Três thrives as an isolationist matriarchy. June, stepdaughter to one of the powerful political leaders known as Aunties, is determined to be an artist, and her daring, anonymous installations challenge the city’s restrictions on technology, its corrupt infrastructure, its disregard for the young (technology has allowed lifespans to stretch multiple centuries), and its rigid class system. She finds an ally in Enki, the charismatic new summer king who will be an honored celebrity for a year, until he is sacrificed as part of a ritual to choose the incoming queen. 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. While its complexity and disorientingly immersive sense of place may limit its appeal among teen readers, it stands as an imaginative and thoroughly realized addition to the sci-fi genre. claire e. gross

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

VOYA Reviews 2013 April

Johnson’s post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction novel tries very hard to achieve many things, but fails on most accounts. Lead character June Acosta has two best friends, Enik and Gil. She loves Gil, but he loves Enik, who is to become the new summer king. The world has ended due to nuclear war, and there are several city-states over the world that house the leftover human population. Technology has allowed these humans to live longer than ever before, and the city-state where June lives (Palmares Tres) is ruled by a queen and a council of Auntie’s. After the reign of one year, each summer king is sacrificed (his throat is cut in public), and he chooses the next woman to be queen The story is confusing, and the reader never really gets a visual picture or enough details to understand the culture and setting. The character development is lacking, and what the author is really trying to achieve with the “plot” or characters is unclear: human rights, social class, importance of art, access to information, sexuality, anarchy, feminism, etc. The “heroine” June is not somebody to root for, and the reader may not even care what happens to her. Due to its lack of thematic clarity, the novel fails as good dystopian science fiction. It is only clear that the author tried to create a Hunger Games or perhaps The Giver, but does not come close. This book will need promotion to appeal even to its intended audience.—Karen Sykeny 2Q 2P S

Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

 

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