Summer Prince

Usually when I blurb a YA book, I post about it here when it’s published. Alas, I was in the depths of non-blogging when Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Summer Prince came out a month ago. So now I’m making up for that, because it is a very good book indeed. Here’s what I said in my blurb:

A nimble, beautiful novel about risking everything for love and art, both otherworldly and magnificently real.

But now that I have some time, and more space than one gets for a blurb, I have a lot more to say.

summer prince

Summer Prince is set four centuries in the future (roughly the same time frame as Ugies). It’s set mostly in a city-state called Palmares Três, which sits where Rio de Janeiro, Brazil does today. The city is post-scarcity futuristic, but technology is carefully controlled and wealth unequally distributed. It’s also a matriarchy, though one with a peculiar old tradition: every five years, the youngest citizens (under thirty) all vote to elect a Summer King.

Summer King is an honorary position, basically an official rock star of the city. He’s always super charismatic, beautiful, and artistically talented, and has an awesome time being king.

There’s only one drawback: at the end of one year the Summer King is ritually sacrificed.

Here’s something you might not know: The sacred king who reigns for a year and then dies can be found in lots of societies in history. It’s an old pagan tradition. But Johnson uses it to examine our current celebrity culture, in which we build up and tear down famous people, particularly young ones, even as we love them with all our hearts.

Which brings us to June Costas, the protagonist of Summer Prince. She’s eighteen, an artist, and a child of privilege. (Her mother is a high government official; her father was a famous singer who committed suicide.) Thanks to her POV, Summer Prince is all about art. Music, drawings, sculptures, nano-tattoos, large-scale high-tech media manipulations—all of these get deployed by June in her quest to be the best artist in Palmares Três. She’s in rebellion against her mother and the government, still angry at her father, and gloriously egotistical (as one might expect of the self-annointed best artist in Palmares Três).

She’s also gloriously in love with the just-elected Summer King, who’s not only fated to die in a year, but also happens to be in love with June’s best friend, Gil.

Anyway, it’s pretty awesome, and got starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist. If you liked the way that the high tech in Uglies empowered its teen characters to do cool things, you will totally love this book. The art in it feels like real art, and the love, both celebrity-crushing and actual face-to-face connection, totally feels like real love.

You can read the opening here.

25 thoughts on “Summer Prince

  1. This book sounds amazing! Gonna put it on my to-read list! Great to see you blogging more 😀
    Please post Uglies movies news soon!

  2. I finished this book a week ago, and chose it because Justine tweeted about it. Then I saw that Scott blurbed it and knew I had to read it. It was very good!

  3. Scott,

    Because you and Justine were talking so much about this book, and because I’m Brazilian, I decided to read it.

    But I couldn’t really enjoy it. All the portuguese words made me cringe because they were not used in a normal or even acceptable way. Or are plain wrong, like the plural of our currency (reais and not reals).

    The mentions to the Brazilian culture were also a little off and, being it MY culture, prevented me from truly enjoying the book. It has its high points, like being a society were sex and love are free, but it got to a point that every time I read a “mamãe” I had to take a break.

    Also, I don’t know how it may seem to someone who don’t know Candomblé, but the little that is represented in TSP (even tought the writer says that the religion has changed from the times of old Brazil) is far off from what I see nowadays.

    There are lots of things like that throughout the book, but it would be tiring to mention them all (yep, I highlighted them on my version of the ebook). It’s just that, I can see the book’s merit, but I won’t be ever able to apreciate it like an outsider.

  4. Palmares Três is not where Rio is today, and the protagonist’s name is June Costa, not Costas.

    I wrote about it on my blog, but I agree what Lais said. The book’s misuse of my culture and language was distracting to the point where I couldn’t enjoy the plot and the history. All her characters had the vocabulary of five year olds, the names were a lot of times completely of, she reinforces the stereotype that samba is the only type of music we have, she changes dates and habits for no reason whatsoever. It makes me a little worried to think that some people might think that that is an accurate representation of Brazil (as I’ve seen reviews saying that it was “recognizable Brazilian”), because it isn’t.

    Other than that, the plot was actually pretty cool, but it’s hard to focus on it when so much was wrong.

  5. Lais and Erika, I find it interesting you both said what you did and will keep it in mind should I get around to reading the book. So much I ( am I assume most others) know about cultures other than their own comes from people in their own culture, not from those who have lived or at least experienced the ‘foreign’ culture in question.

    Also, the whole nano- and media oriented technology that seems to play a role in the story reminds me of the book I’m currently reading, The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. Also set in the future, it explores the effects technology, on both a large and small scale,

  6. Lais and Erika, I find it interesting you both said what you did and will keep it in mind should I get around to reading the book. So much I ( am I assume most others) know about cultures other than their own comes from people in their own culture, not from those who have lived or at least experienced the ‘foreign’ culture in question.

    Also, the whole nano- and media oriented technology that seems to play a role in the story reminds me of the book I’m currently reading, The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. Also set in the future, it explores the effects technology, on both a large and small scale, can have on society.

  7. Well, despite what Lais and Erika say, it still sounds cool to me. And having never even been to Brazil, I don’t think the cultural things will bother me. If it makes you guys feel better, though, I won’t let it paint a picture in my head of real Brazil today. But, just perhaps, since it’s set 400 in the future, maybe the author was trying to show a “developed” Brazil. Things change a lot over time, and 400 years is a lot. Also, whatever historical references she made may have purposely been wrong, too. I mean, I’m sure that everything we believe to have happened 400 years ago isn’t 100% accurate. Maybe she was trying to portray an ignorance in the population? I really have no idea, as I haven’t read it, but just a suggestion.

    @Midshipman K (in the last thread): Yeah, whatever I’m doing at the moment always seems to be the worst. If I’m writing, writing’s the worst. If I’m editing, editing’s the worst. And whenever I finished my novel and try publishing, I’m sure I’ll think publishing’s the worst. 🙂

    Yes, I agree. Martin Freeman looks eerily like Ian Holm, and is therefore a perfect Bilbo.

    Yeah, something tells me Cassie wouldn’t kill off her main MC, or Jace. I just can’t imagine it happening. And, although I’ve already pointed said this, another good reason not to read the second trilogy! To not become annoyed with Jace.

    I KNOW! I’ve pretty much said all I can without sounding redundant/repetitive already, but they are so perfect together. Dalek forever! Also…is it bad I’ve only read the books once? But I intend to read them again hopefully before Alpha!

    By the way, do you have a title for your book? I’d like to put a name to the description. Mine is “A Tale of Two Maidens.”

  8. My problem isn’t with the future part. Is that she doesn’t know enough about the country (or the region) to know what to put in the future and how to work it in a believable way. A Brazilian author would know what part of us are strong enough to remain and they would know how to change stuff that we have today to something else without making it too weird. The fact that she couldn’t even get the most basic vocabulary right and that whatever that remained were in the most part stereotypes that aren’t even true today makes it a problem.

    But like I said, other than that the book IS pretty cool. Read it and enjoy it! Just please keep in mind there is nothing Brazilian about it. Just cross out any reference to Brazil and Bahia, and pretend it’s somewhere else in the world.

  9. …wow. i read the blog post and went “hey i’m totally going to read this!” then i read the comments and was turned off. i think that’s good advice, Erika. i’ll read this pretending it’s not supposed to be Brazil or Bahia.
    congrats on your blurbing Scott!

  10. It sounds like an intriguing book. I read some of the comments noting the problems, and I wish we could have better awareness of other cultures, but Americans at least seem to stereotype a lot. I know I do, even though I don’t like it. I’m not supporting the errors at all, but merely stating my thought reactions to them.

  11. Wow, sounds like an interesting book. I suppose I’ll read it…someday. But when I do I will follow your advice, Erika. I’ll just pretemd it’s somewhere else, not Brazil.

  12. I have it! Picked it up in the store because it looked interesting with the gorgeous cover art, and then when I saw you blurbed it, Scott-la, I ended up buying it. Haven’t had time to read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it!

  13. Wow, this book sounds… AWESOME. I believe I’ll pick it up when funds suffice…

  14. THIS BOOK LOOKS SO COOL. I don’t really care whether the “culture” or “history” or whatever is off, it’s set it the FUTURE, so of course it’s going to be different, people.

    Just sayin’

  15. wow! this looks really cool! Despite how tired I am of dystopians…..I shall read this because i trust your judgement 🙂

  16. Finished it.
    I liked it a lot. Completely called the ending, heh. Also, the Summer King’s name is Enki, and June’s best friend’s name is Gil.
    Enki and Gilgamesh anyone?

  17. Hello! I feel like it’s been forever, but I know it hasn’t. You know how I was so excited about flying to D.C.? Well, today we’re supposed to be returning and our flight is late, and we’ll miss our connection, and the whole world is going completely barking spiders. Everyone seems to be using this flight as a connection. Some people are going to Madrid! Anyway, I’m doing this from my phone, which I’ve never done before. It’s very tedious, but I love this place and you guys are dissauding my anxiety.

    Okay, then. I was going to say this book sounded interesting. I am not put off by the negative reviews. I simply find it interesting that we Americans can read books like The Hunger Games or Uglies (which I’m guessing is in America?) and have no problem with them. We have no culture….>.< Or anything with deep roots or a larger meaning. We're just ideas that don't usually work….

    @8: I know how you feel…. There are very few times I'm proud of anything I do. But sometimes I just have to tell myself to let it be awful, but one day it won't be so bad. There'll be something ELSE to complain about! Joy….

    I also love him because of the way he executes Bilbo's character. Like when he made that amazing speech about getting the Dwarves' home back, or when he was searching through his house only to find the Dwarves gone. It's the little things and the big things that all chalk up to me being like, "Bilbo, I love you! Let me hug you!" XD

    XD My sister is trying to convince me to like Jace again on the grounds that he's Alec's parabatai and Alec cares for him, even if I don't. And that CAN'T happen, because my friends and I do too much half-cosplay, and I'm always Alec. It's sort of working.

    I cannot agree with you enough! Doing my notes on WWI, I keep flashing back to Leviathan, then I start daydreaming, and then my notes don't get down. But I can't help it! I love them to pieces! I dreamed about them last night. XD And when we transferred at Newark airport in New Jersey coming to D.C., I could see NYC, and I was just like, "GOLIATH." (And Shadowhunters, but more Goliath.) It's not at all bad that you've only read them once. I've only read them twice. (I believe the most I ever read a book was five times, but now I can't remember the plot. It's been years.) But I've flipped through them, or reread half of the book, or whathaveyou so many times that I could rattle off a very detailed plotline of all three books. I was having this conversation with a friend of mine recently, because LBG are the only books I can do that for. ^^
    Gah, don't make me think about Alpha. I'm so nervous! On one hand, I'm daydreaming about going, but on the other hand I'm like, "There is no way in hell…."

    Funny that you should mention titles…Mine is also a play on a famous title (I love yours, by the way), but so far I've only named the trilogy. It's called The Designed Comedy. But so far, the book that goes to the description is very imaginatively titled….Book One. Gah…. I go to shreds thinking about it…. I have no worthwhile ideas….

    And I just found out that we will be taking this late flight to Newark, but won't be leaving for San Francisco until tomorrow morning. I get to miss a day of school! Which I haven't done in over a year, even when sick…. Makeup work is just too annoying…. I'm actually sort of sad, too, because I haven't seen my friends in a week. But them again, we're always happy to miss a day of school, right? 🙂

  18. @21: That’s true. We don’t have much culture. Kinda like our accents. When I went on a cruise, and it was mostly British people (it docked from London, so that’s understandable). Anyway, they were talking about how you could practically tell what city a person was from just by their accent. America is, what? Three or so times as big as Britain? And I can pretty much only distinguish New Yorkers and Alaskans/Minnesotans from everyone else. :\

    Even if I own and love a book to death, I just don’t usually reread things. I’m not sure why. But their are some things I need to read again! LBG, 13 Reasons Why, The Host, THG, TMI (first half)…

    Funny enough, I wasn’t even thinking that. It was only AFTER I decided on that name that I realized it was all but identical to “A Tale of Two Cities.” I dunno how I missed the comparison before, but…
    Yeah, sometimes naming books is hard… The six-book series I mentioned before is called “The Medallion,” but I have no clue what to name each individual book. I also have a trilogy that’s a (kind of dark) retelling of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White (with their storylines all intertwined, and from the perspective of Cinderella’s older step-sister) that I think will be called “Dark Descent,” but again, single names are tough! Also, I’m not sure if it’s long enough to be a trilogy…it might end up being a single book with three parts instead. [I just love reinvented fairy-tales, though!]

  19. @22 – well, I think I can say you have cool names for series. Dark Descent? I would absolutely read that!

    I always reread stuff, and everyone asks me why. I think it is that, because I don’t want the book to end, and then it ends, the only way to go is read it again. Also, I forget the plots and then I can’t tell anyone to read it because I don’t know what it is about…..but then I just go and read the back flap…..well, now I’m just rambling.

    I have an English project where we’re supposed to make a fire without matches, like we were lost in the wild (it’s because we read Hatchet). I tried to do it today, just to get an idea….you cannot imagine how difficult it is! I tried the friction method (rolling a stick between your hands), then the soda can and chocolate, then the batteries and aluminum, and then one with a potatoe, toothpaste and salt.
    Long story short, nothing worked. The only one that came close was the first one, but the tinder kept blowing away, and the sticks broke and I got blisters in my hands. It’s horrible, but in a way cool. I guess I’m just not as patient as cavemen were when they did this….

  20. just bought the book based on your’s as good as your endorsement 🙂 thanks very much for bringing it to my attention….very glad to be reading it.

    Never written here before, but would just like to say ‘thank you’ for all the wonderful books you’ve written….I’ve read them all now, and they have given me a lot of enjoyment….they have that same sense of adventure and excitement I used to get when reading the old heinlein juveniles, and higher praise i can’t think those remain some of my favourite stories….particularly ones like ‘citizen of the galaxy….

  21. I started crying all over again….First, my sister got to see me break down over Clockwork Princess. Then, it was my dad and my sister for Manchee. Next it’s going to be the whole family!

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