The Summer Prince is from the crowded “Dystopic Sexy Future” genre of YA fantasy, but, like The Chaos, it’s one of the rare books from the genre with a protagonist of not-Caucasian ethnicity. The book is set in a futuristic, matriarchal Brazilian city that is built vertically, like a pyramid, with the poorest residents down at the bottom by the sea and pungent vats that contain the algae that power the city’s grid. Because men can’t be trusted to give up their positions of power, a king, called the summer prince, is chosen every five years to select the new queen, and then sacrificed.
Our hero, June, is from one of the upper tiers, but she and her best friend Gil become entwined with the summer prince, Enki, who is from the slums. They are all in love with each other in different ways, but also with the excitement that comes with being young; June is driven to be an artist, Gil is passionate and charismatic, and Enki is fearless when it comes to modifying his own body with illegal technology. The future world depicted in The Summer Prince still has class systems, but age, bodies, and sexuality are a lot more fluid. Personally, I’d prefer a future with jetpacks.
Without giving away too much of the book’s dynamic, twisty plot, The Summer Prince is a book about June’s journey to explore and define her true self with and through Enki before the end of his reign, which is also the end of his life. In a society run by older women (who live much longer lives), June learns that it’s up to the young people to push leadership to take chances, even if it involves great sacrifice.
The Summer Prince is an absorbing tale that, despite the youthful energy of its characters, never reads as too young. Of all the dystopian futures I’ve read about in these books, this one is one of the most vibrant and inviting.