OOM book club: The Summer Prince

Apr 30, 2013
It’s finally here! Welcome to the first official OOM book club discussion! As we previously announced, this month’s book selection was Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince. Did you read it? Join us right here for a discussion at 1pm ET! We’ll update this post as the discussion begins. Some thoughts to get you started: How would you describe the world of The Summer Prince? What role does art play in this book? What role does technology play? In what ways is Palmares Tres similar to today? In what ways is it different? Stay tuned! And, join us on Twitter at #summerprince. And the discussion has begun! The book’s editor, Arthur A. Levine, has just joined us too! Jess is leading the discussion and begins by noticing how this book — while a YA, a dystopian, a book about art, love, rebellion — is, at its core, a book about relationships. What stuck out for you from this book? Some of us in the room are noting: the fluid approach to sexuality; the idea that skin color and age still were issues even though sexuality wasn’t; language. Let’s talk about language! One participant here says they sometimes felt like they weren’t in on the joke because of the specific language used in this title. Did any of you feel that way? In response, Arthur says, “A writer in speculative fiction orscifi has to strike a delicate balance. How much is too much alienation? How much would explaining it all upfront ruin the flow of the scene?” General consensus in the room: This book showed some great examples of an author not sticking to the stereotypical “rival” relationships you can find in YA. How did death factor into this title? How did the author use science fiction to demonstrate the ways we all have to face our mortality and that of our families? “There’s a lot of stuff going on in this book,” says an employee here in the room. “How much time do we have to talk about it all?” What do you think? What’s the “stuff” happening in the book? How about setting? A friend on Twitter mentions that setting The Summer Prince in futuristic Brazil was intriguing, because most dystopians are set in the US. How did you feel about the setting? Also on Twitter, someone asked Arthur what drew him to the manuscript. He says: “The incredible breadth of her intellect, and that she didn’t allow that to overwhelm the emotional story. To have a book that’s so thought provoking, has so much intellectual weight, in a story with characters you care about is incredibly impressive.” On the cover: how much did it draw you in? The covermodel is the exact combination of races that June, the main character,is. “We really wanted to get it right,” says Arthur. What role does art play in this book? How would you feel if your mood was broadcast on your arms the way it is for June? How does the shape of Palmares Tres influence your perceptions of the book? The city is a pyramid. The smells and shapes and sounds of the levels are vividly described. Enkigets called “the summer prince” midway through the book…but he’s actually the Summer King. What’s the symbolism there? June has a deep, deep love for her city of Palmares Tres. That’s something you don’t see a lot of in YA — a teenager who loves the city she’s from. The friendship between June and Gil is special, too. He didn’t put his name in for the summer prince election because he could never abandon June the way her father did. We the readers see June’s insecurities even when June herself doesn’t. “The author takes a lot of risks by making June be as unsympathetic as she is for most of the book,” says Arthur. “The great thing about books: you bring yourself into the reading of the book, and you take what the author gives you.” – Arthur Final thoughts: where is June in five years? Has she changed her city for the better?