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How The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson Explores Art, Politics, Technology, and Love in a Post-Apocalyptic World

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson: A Dystopian Love Story

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a city ruled by women, where every five years a young man is chosen to be king for one year before he is killed? This is the premise of The Summer Prince, a young adult dystopian novel by Alaya Dawn Johnson that explores themes of art, politics, technology, and love in a futuristic Brazil.

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The Setting of Palmares Tres

The novel is set in Palmares Tres, a city built on top of a pyramid after a nuclear war devastated most of Earth. Palmares Tres is divided into tiers, with the wealthy and powerful living on the higher levels and the poor and marginalized living on the lower ones. The city is governed by a Queen and a Parliament composed mainly of women called Aunties. Men are mostly excluded from politics and seen as inferior.

One of the most important traditions of Palmares Tres is the election and sacrifice of a Summer King. Every five years, four young men are nominated by each tier to compete for the title of Summer King. The people vote for their favorite candidate, who then becomes king for one year. During his reign, he has to choose one of the Aunties to be the next Queen. At the end of his term, he is sacrificed to appease the gods and ensure the prosperity of the city.

The Characters of June, Gil, and Enki

The protagonist of The Summer Prince is June Costa, a seventeen-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a famous artist. She lives on Tier Eight with her mother Valencia, who works as an engineer for the Queen, and her stepmother Auntie Yaha, who is a high-ranking politician. June is rebellious and adventurous, always looking for new ways to express herself through her art.

June's best friend is Gil da Costa Alves, who lives on Tier Nine with his grandmother. Gil is kind and loyal, but also timid and insecure. He loves music and dancing, but he doesn't have much ambition or talent. He supports June's artistic endeavors, even when they get them into trouble.

The new Summer King is Enki Correia Lima, who comes from the lowest tier of Palmares Tres, the Verde. Enki is charismatic and charming, but also defiant and dangerous. He is a hacker and a graffiti artist, who uses his skills to challenge the authority of the Queen and the Parliament. He is also bisexual, and he falls in love with both June and Gil.

The Plot of The Summer Prince

The novel follows the events of Enki's year as Summer King, and how he affects the lives of June and Gil. June and Gil first meet Enki at a party, where they are impressed by his dancing and his charisma. June recognizes a fellow artist in Enki, and hopes to catch his eye. But it is Gil who catches Enki's eye, making June jealous and sad.

June decides to create a mural of Enki and Gil kissing, which attracts Enki's attention. He invites June to collaborate with him on a series of art projects that aim to expose the injustices and inequalities of Palmares Tres. June agrees, hoping to win Enki's love and admiration. She also hopes to enter the prestigious Queen's Award, a competition for young artists that could launch her career.

As June and Enki work together, they develop a close friendship and a romantic attraction. They also face many obstacles and enemies, such as the Queen, who sees Enki as a threat to her power; the Aunties, who disapprove of Enki's rebellious actions; and the Cariocas, a group of hackers who want to use Enki for their own agenda. June also has to deal with her complicated relationship with her mother, who betrayed her father with Auntie Yaha; and her rivalry with Bebel, another young artist who competes for the Queen's Award.

The climax of the novel occurs when Enki reveals his final art project: a plan to hack into the city's mainframe and unleash a virus that will destroy Palmares Tres. He believes that this is the only way to free the people from the tyranny of the Queen and the Parliament, and to honor the memory of his ancestors who died in the war. He also reveals that he has implanted a device in his heart that will kill him before his sacrifice, so that he can die on his own terms.

June is shocked and devastated by Enki's plan. She tries to stop him, but she is too late. Enki activates the virus, which causes chaos and destruction in the city. He also activates his device, which stops his heart. June rushes to his side, where she confesses her love for him and kisses him goodbye.

The resolution of the novel shows how June copes with Enki's death and legacy. She decides to honor his memory by continuing his art and his message. She also reconciles with her mother and Auntie Yaha, who support her in her grief. She wins the Queen's Award for her mural of Enki, which becomes a symbol of hope and resistance for the people of Palmares Tres. She also remains friends with Gil, who shares her loss and love for Enki.

The Themes of The Summer Prince

The Summer Prince explores several themes that are relevant to young adult readers and contemporary society. Some of these themes are:

  • Art as a form of expression and resistance: The novel shows how art can be used to communicate one's identity, emotions, values, and vision. It also shows how art can be used to challenge the status quo, expose the truth, and inspire change. June and Enki use their art to express their individuality and creativity, as well as their dissatisfaction and rebellion against the system that oppresses them.

  • Politics as a source of power and corruption: The novel shows how politics can be used to control people, resources, information, and history. It also shows how politics can be corrupted by greed, selfishness, fear, and violence. The Queen and the Parliament use their power to maintain their privilege and authority over Palmares Tres, while ignoring or suppressing the needs and rights of the lower tiers. They also manipulate history by erasing or distorting the past events that led to the war and the creation of Palmares Tres.

  • Technology as a tool for innovation and destruction: The novel shows how technology can be used to create new possibilities, solutions, and experiences. It also shows how technology can be used to cause harm, damage, and death. Palmares Tres is a city that relies on advanced technology for its survival and functioning, such as holograms, implants, nanobots, etc. However, this technology also poses risks and dangers for its inhabitants, such as hacking, viruses, explosions, etc.

novel shows how love can be used to connect with others, share one's feelings, values, and dreams. It also shows how love can be used to sacrifice oneself for the sake of another, or for a greater cause. June, Gil, and Enki experience different kinds of love throughout the novel, such as friendship, romance, family, and art. They also make different kinds of sacrifices for their love, such as risking their lives, reputations, and happiness.

The Style of The Summer Prince

The author of The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson, uses a distinctive and captivating style to tell her story. Some of the features of her style are:

  • Language and imagery: The author uses rich and colorful language and imagery to describe the setting, the characters, and the events of the novel. She uses a mixture of Portuguese and English words to create a unique and authentic voice for her characters and their culture. She also uses metaphors and similes to create vivid and memorable images for her readers.

  • Strengths and weaknesses: The author's style has many strengths, such as creating a realistic and immersive world, engaging the reader's emotions and imagination, and conveying the themes and messages of the novel. However, it also has some weaknesses, such as being too complex and confusing at times, using too many unfamiliar words and references, and lacking clarity and coherence in some parts.

  • Comparison and contrast: The author's style can be compared and contrasted with other dystopian novels, such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, or The Giver by Lois Lowry. These novels also use language and imagery to create dystopian worlds and characters, but they differ in their tone, perspective, and purpose. For example, The Hunger Games uses a darker and more violent tone than The Summer Prince, while The Giver uses a simpler and more straightforward perspective than The Summer Prince.


In conclusion, The Summer Prince is a young adult dystopian novel that explores themes of art, politics, technology, and love in a futuristic Brazil. It tells the story of June Costa, a rebellious artist who falls in love with Enki Correia Lima, the new Summer King who plans to destroy Palmares Tres. The novel is written in a rich and colorful style that captivates the reader's attention and imagination.

If you are looking for a novel that will challenge your mind and touch your heart, you should read The Summer Prince. It is a novel that will make you think about the world you live in, the choices you make, and the people you love. It is a novel that will make you feel alive.

Have you read The Summer Prince? What did you think of it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions


Who is the author of The Summer Prince?Alaya Dawn Johnson is the author of The Summer Prince. She is an American writer who has written several novels and short stories in various genres, such as fantasy, science fiction, horror, and historical fiction.

When was The Summer Prince published?The Summer Prince was published in 2013 by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Press. It was nominated for several awards, such as the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Where is Palmares Tres located?Palmares Tres is located in Brazil, near the Atlantic coast. It is named after Palmares, a historical settlement of escaped African slaves that resisted Portuguese colonialism in the 17th century.

What is the significance of the title The Summer Prince?The title The Summer Prince refers to Enki Correia Lima, who is elected as the Summer King of Palmares Tres. He is called the Summer Prince because he is young, handsome, and charismatic, but also because he is doomed to die at the end of his reign.

What are some of the symbols and motifs used in The Summer Prince?Some of the symbols and motifs used in The Summer Prince are:

  • The pyramid: The pyramid represents the structure and hierarchy of Palmares Tres, as well as its stability and strength.

  • The sun: The sun represents the life and energy of Enki, as well as his power and influence.

  • The moon: The moon represents the death and mystery of Enki, as well as his secrets and sacrifices.

  • The wakas: The wakas are small robots that Enki uses to create his art. They represent his creativity and innovation, as well as his rebellion and destruction.

  • The mosaics: The mosaics are pieces of art that June creates using broken glass and metal. They represent her identity and expression, as well as her resilience and beauty.



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