by Alaya Dawn Johnson
First sentence: “When I was eight, my papai took me to the park to watch a king die.”
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Content: I was initially thinking that this would be good for those who like Uglies; there’s about the same amount of swearing. But the reason it’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) is because there’s a lot of allusions to sex, including a couple (tasteful) sex scenes.
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 in this, a moon year in which her futuristic, matriarchal society chooses a one-year Summer King to “rule”, she will have that chance. It starts innocently: her best friend, Gil, falls in love with the summer king, Enki. And she does, too, though she tells herself that it’s mostly about the art. And what art June and Enki create. Ever more elaborate, they end up sparking a revolution of sorts between the technophiles and the isolationists; the government, made up of women they call “Aunties”, has placed strict regulations on what kind of tech can be in the city.
It was this tech element that reminded me so much of Uglies. But, I think Johnson was pointing out the value of art and the power of love, even in a futuristic (and while not dystopian, certainly not perfect) society. It’s a very thought-provoking novel, one that winds and unfurls instead of proceeding in a linear fashion. And it was this winding that kept me most interested. Johnson chose to build her futuristic Brazilian society in bits and chunks throughout the entire book, dropping hints and clues about what happened to get the world to this point along the way. And the society she built was equally as fascinating, with all its machinations and political scheming.
But, ultimately, it was June and Enki and Gil (and June’s competition/friend, Bebel) that kept me reading in the end. I cared about what happened to them, how this year played out for the summer king and his newfound friends. I found myself moved by the ending, and thinking about the book long after I turned the last page.