Thanks to the Hunger Games, YA fiction is saturated with dystopian and
post-apocalyptic fiction. After a while, it all starts to feel the same: set in America, a romance, a Beat the Man moment. But, The Summer Prince had me captivated from the beginning, simply by where it's set: a futuristic, post-apocalyptic city in Brazil, a city run by a matriarchy, whose queen is chosen by a sacrificial (literally) "summer prince."
Seventeen-year-old June Costa is the best artist in Palmeres Três. Or so she thinks; she just hasn't had a chance to prove it yet. And over the course of this year, the moon year of the young, vibrant Summer King Enki, she will have that chance. It starts innocently: she wants to make a statement, and she and her best friend, Gil, crash a party. That leads to Gil and Enki falling in love; June does as well, but mostly, as she and Enki collaborate on increasingly more daring art projects, it becomes more about her city and her art.
With their art, they end up sparking a revolution of sorts between the technophiles -- the people who are interested in newer and more invasive technologies -- and the isolationists -- those who like the current state of the city.
To say this was wholly unique is a bit overstating it; there was much that reminded me -- in the best possible way -- of Scott Westerfeld's books. But, like the best books of this genre, Johnson hit upon not only a unique vision of the future, but also layered in elements -- from the winding narrative, to the perfect ending -- that were thought-provoking and stayed with me long after I closed the book.