Book Review: Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson

Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson

Posted September 16, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Rise to the Sun

Rise to the Sun

by Leah Johnson

Publisher: Scholastic Press on January 1, 1970
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIAP+
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC, Bisexual, Black, LGBTQIAP+
Content Warnings: Death of Parent, Gun Violence, Panic Attacks, Toxic Relationship

Rating: ★★★½

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Three days. Two girls. One life-changing music festival.

Toni is grieving the loss of her roadie father and needing to figure out where her life will go from here -- and she's desperate to get back to loving music. Olivia is a hopeless romantic whose heart has just taken a beating (again) and is beginning to feel like she'll always be a square peg in a round hole -- but the Farmland Music and Arts Festival is a chance to find a place where she fits.

The two collide and it feels like something like kismet when a bond begins to form. But when something goes wrong and the festival is sent into a panic, Olivia and Toni will find that they need each other (and music) more than they ever imagined.

Rise to the Sun is Leah Johnson’s sophomore novel. There’s a lot of good to it! For example, there’s a wide variety or representation in parental backgrounds and friendship dynamics. All the characters are interesting enough, and I really enjoyed the musical festival setting – why aren’t there more music festival settings in books? Lets make it a thing. Still, Rise to the Sun is not as strong of a book as You Should See Me in a Crown and I’d like to dig into “why”.

At its base, Rise to the Sun is still an entertaining book and 100% worth reading – please don’t let anything in this review throw you off. I never considered DNF’ing this book, not once. It’s more that, while reading, I found myself disappointed that the protagonists and dynamics did not live up to the high bar set in You Should See Me in a Crown. Johnson wrote Rise to the Sun amidst the pandemic, and as such, it’s fair to expect a different experience – I think all of us were high affected by the last couple years, and we should be kind to others.

The fundamentals are this: it feels like a lot of the plot and characters are still trapped in Johnson’s head. There’s a lot of movement and a lot less subtlety in this novel than her previous one, and as a result, I found myself having to pause and figure out who was speaking and where they were and what was going out. I think one of the challenges here was that this book is a dual POV – something new for the author. As a single POV, I believe we would have been able to get to adequately know Toni or Olivia, get on board with their motives and learn their histories. Otherwise, the book could have been longer to give each of the protagonists room to breathe.

I mentioned earlier that I loved the setting – I did! There’s so much going on at festivals like that and they are so much fun. It’s the type of setting that can really come to life. In some places, it did! I really would have liked to see more integration into the festival, the adrenaline and the music. With the exception of one set, we only heard about the concerts and silent discos and so forth. I want to say that we spent too much time inside the characters’ heads instead of enjoying the setting, but that’s not true, either. It comes back to the fact that the book should have been longer to meet its full potential. Too much going on to give any one thing justice.

Speaking of “too much going on”, lets talk about the plot. A lot of things going on here on a few different levels – the growing romantic relationship, the thing Olivia is running from, getting all the apples, Toni’s quest to find her path, winning the Golden Apple, Olivia and Imani’s friendship. There are also another couple events that occurred in the course of the story that could have been a spinoff subplot. Again, we find ourselves backed in a corner with a lot of problems to solve and very little time to solve them. The romantic relationship takes the most space, but even then, it’s clunky. Another example of wishing it was a longer book. In particular, I’m frustrated that Imani never got to go on the Ferris Wheel.

There are a lot of little things to nitpick about Rise to the Sun, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the same cause – this book either needed one POV, or it needed to be a little longer to allow things to develop a bit more. It’s entertaining and it’s nice to see all the rep and I love the setting. It’s a very readable book, and not unenjoyable, but it wasn’t all it could have been.


Rating: 4 out of 5.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


Rating: 2 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Personal Enjoyment

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Rise to the Sun Will Be Donated

While Rise to the Sun is still a fairly decent book and let’s be real here – the cover is aces… I simply don’t think that I’ll read it again. And with that in mind, I think I’d prefer to donate it and pass it forward to the next person.

Also by Leah Johnson

2 books found
Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson



send me your thoughts

Have you ever been to a music festival?

If so, which festival(s) and how did you like it? If not, are there any in particular you would like to go to?

Share with me in the comments!

stay magical amber

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