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The Summer Prince

The Summer Prince - THE SUMMER PRINCE was admittedly one of my most anticipated titles of 2013. It has diversity, science fiction, a dash of romance, fantasy, and a female-dominated society (okay, that’s something that I shouldn’t admit to loving to see in books). I went into this book ignoring the negative reviews I saw that might have led me astray. I went into this book with high expectations – high expectations that were soon crushed under the weight of disappointment. CONCEPT OVER EXECUTION The strongest part of THE SUMMER PRINCE is its concept. A teenage artist in a future Brazilian city founded by former slaves who sacrifice a teenage boy (the Summer King) in order to represent the sacrifice of their people and loyalty to their Queen. THE SUMMER PRINCE is a story of art, politics, love, family, and friendship, all against the backdrop of the ticking down to the death of the most popular Summer King in years as seen through the eyes of artist June, a girl still struggling after the death of her father, her mother’s remarriage, etc etc etc. Think typical teenage issues, except with a side of, “Oh, by the way, our society dictates that every five years we kill a guy for some obscure reason that we’ve forgotten.”I love the concept for THE SUMMER PRINCE, and as such, I really love the synopsis and what it promises in a few little paragraphs. The execution was lacking, ranging from being exceptionally vague to making little sense to having zero transitions. Scenes literally would end suddenly, letting the narrative run ahead two months without ever answering what happened. I began to wonder if it was my Netgalley document, but nope. This is just what happens in the book.Johnson, in her YA debut, does deserve credit for her conceptualization and overall idea. The concept for Palmares Tres and this future post-apocalyptic Brazil (and world, considering the role of Tokyo 10, a cyber city) is remarkable and unprecedented. Her ideas are frankly stunning. The issue is that ideas don’t make up for a confusing, meandering read with little semblance of sense at times. AMBIGUITY DOESN’T PAY OFF IN YA FICTION The main issue I had with THE SUMMER PRINCE was an overall feeling that maybe, just maybe, this book isn’t right for teens. Maybe its audience would be best with adults considering the style of prose. It’s lyrical, poetic, and fluid, but also meandering, strange, absurd, and overwrought. And yes, transitions are rather lacking.Another strong point in THE SUMMER PRINCE is our heroine June, a character that remarkably feels like a teenager – impulsive, dramatic, and torn between any number of emotions. She’s lustful, guilty, doubtful, and determined in the name of art. While I didn’t understand some of the romance aspects of the story, namely how Palmares Tres seemed like a giant orgy in an ambiguous pyramid-like structure (I’m still confused by the setting to be honest – and I’ve given up figuring it out, even though it sure was unique and interesting), I admire Johnson’s heroine. And she is a person of color! And the cover model is black! Huzzah! HOW MERCUTIO FROM ROMEO + JULIET FACTORS IN The entire time I read this novel, I kept imagining Enki as Mercutio from Romeo + Juliet (the one with Leo and Claire Danes and Verona Beach). Totally off the topic of the review, but opportunity for some fabulous GIFs! And to be honest, Enki’s personality really did remind me of Mercutio – he was gregarious, party-ready, hyper, manic, and consumed with life. And Enki and Mercutio basically have the same physical description minus the goatee. Overall, my impression of THE SUMMER PRINCE is that it was definitely disappointing. And in the end, this review is more of a 2.5 star than a 3. I am rounding it up because I am honestly very excited to see what Johnson does in her next YA book, to see if maybe the prose is restrained and the narrative tightened. The voice is there, but the execution of the writing was the biggest issue that kept me from really enjoying this one. Proceed at your own risk.VERDICT: Belayed by a lack of transitions and an overwrought emphasis on style, THE SUMMER PRINCE has a great concept – but the execution needed a lot of work. Maybe more for adults than teens, especially since it does have a remarkable amount of sex and even self-pleasuring (hey, nothing wrong with that - your hands aren't going to give you an STD).