The city of Palmares Tres rises above the post-holocaust wasteland that was once Brazil. Men destroyed the world so now, in Palmares Tres, women rule. But every five years, the Queen chooses a king.
When June Costa is just 16 years old, a young man named Enki is crowned king. June and Enki bond over their love of art and their desire to impact Palmares Tres with it. Unfortunately, Enki is only summer king, due to be sacrificed one year after taking the throne.
In a lot of ways, this isn’t your average YA fantasy novel. Let’s dig into what makes this book unique using to our Scale of Inclusivity.
Not offensive to women, passed the Bechdel-Wallace test, features women as main/supporting characters: 6/6
No, yes, and yes. Also passes similar tests for racial and LGBTQ+ representation.
Artistic and/or Entertaining: 3/4
Alaya Dawn Johnson paints a complicated world but does a good job of explaining it in pieces. I liked June’s story, personality and the cool technology all around her. She knew her world and how to manipulate it.
I only gave the book 3 points in this section because it had some plotting issues I didn’t like. I thought there were too many page breaks–an emotional cop-out way to end a scene. The ending meandered and I thought the runaway storyline wasn’t grounded enough. Thematically though, the ending worked very well, and the arguments for and against relentless technological development are very relevant in our present day.
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Above and Beyond the the General Media: 3/5
In Johnson’s world, there are no restrictions on who you love. Most characters seemed to be what we would call bisexual (or maybe pansexual). Homosexual romance is front and center to the story (though not in main character June). For this and its racially diverse setting (like modern Brazil), The Summer Prince is lauded as an example of one of the diverse books we need in publishing.
I agree. This diversity is neither central to the story nor separable from it. It imbues the characters. There’s no conflict around race, most of the conflict is around old vs. young and technophiles vs. isolationists.
Unfortunately, the diverse trappings fell flat for me. They were a colorful background that did not enrich the story in the ways I wanted them to. I chose to give the story a few points here to acknowledge that this is not your basic YA story, but could not give it the full points.
Verdict: 12/15 on the Scale.
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