Reviewing: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

While I cannot review books eligible for BFYA, I can describe them and I can still actively promote books written by authors of color. One way I’ll creatively do that is by providing more guests posts this year. I am looking for guest reviewers, so if you have read or are reading any of the (FEW!!) MG or YA books that were written by authors of color and would like to write a review, please contact me at crazyquilts in care of hotmail dot com.

Today, I’m featuring Shadra Strickland’s comments on The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Arthur A. Levine; March 2013).

Click to read the first chapter on NPR

From the publisher’s website:

A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.

The lush city of Palmares Tres 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 Tres 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.

Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.

From Shadra Strickland:

I just really enjoyed the book for it’s daring and unconventionality. The setting really made me use my imagination and create Palmeres Tres in my mind. I felt that all of the rules of the world that Johnson created in this novel made us stretch our imagination. I loved watching our heroine transform throughout the story. I loved the intimate relationships she had with Gil, which read to me less like a romantic infatuation but more like a relationship built through common ideas and support, and then watching her relationship with Enki evolve through art. As an artist who also had to leave her comfort zone and mesh with other artists before fully coming into her own, I can relate to the idea of seeing a reflection of myself through someone who is freer thinking and uninhibited by certain rules and trappings of modern society. I can relate to the excitement and energy she found when she combined her ideas with Enki’s to create something more powerful and daring than she could have imagined on her own until she learned to trust her own voice and create for herself.

I did not focus as much on the rules of the world our characters lived in. I was amused to see a futuristic world where so many ideas about love, sexuality, and freedom were expanded from what we know now, but how difficult it still was for people to embrace change and new ideas.

I think that was the overarching theme for me…transformation.

I enjoyed how Johnson answered many what ifs about society. What if women ruled the world? What if we could live for centuries (if not forever) and choose when we wanted to leave our physical bodies? What if technology merged with art; how would we use it? What if love was love and free from gender restrictions? What if the future really did belong to young people?

headshot_webShadra Strickland studied, design, writing, and illustration at Syracuse University and later went on to complete her M.F.A. at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She won the Ezra Jack Keats Award and the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 2009 for her work in her first picturebook, Bird, written by Zetta Elliott. Strickland co-illustrated Our Children Can Soar, winner of a 2010 NAACP Image Award. Shadra is also the illustrator of A Place Where Hurricanes Happen (Random House, 2010), written by Renee Watson: a story of four children in New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. Publishers Weekly called Strickland’s illustrations “quietly powerful,” and Booklist said, “In vibrant, mixed-media images, award-winning illustrator Strickland extends the drama, feeling, and individual stories.” from Shadra’s website


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