Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson – REVIEW
A stunning novel about being brave enough to be true to yourself, and learning to find joy even when times are unimaginably dark.
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.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Scholastic.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“Somewhere in the light-years of space between the spiritual and the scientific, between the known and the ineffable, there’s live music.”
As someone who loved You Should See Me In a Crown, I was eagerly looking forward to Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Set during a weekend music festival in Georgia, the story follows sixteen-year-old Olivia and seventeen-year-old Toni.
“Olivia is a melody that has made a song of my universe, and I realize I want to spend a long time trying to figure out all the notes.”
Olivia is someone who loves falling in love but rarely manages to sustain a lasting relationship due to her habit of being a mirrorball that reflects whoever she happens to be dating. Toni is grieving the loss of her father and hopes music can help her heal and provide some clarity as to her future. When the two girls collide, they help each other to grow and to demand the respect they deserve. I particularly loved how the author handled Olivia’s story and how often she is dismissed as “too much”. Black girls are so often held to a higher standard of behaviour and not allowed to be messy but the author rightfully challenges this and it’s as powerful as it sounds.
“Love is messy and awkward and ugly, but at least it’s honest.”
There’s a deep passion for live music and its power of community and truth running through this story. In a time where live music events have been cancelled, this book celebrates how essential they are to society. A sub-plot I particularly liked was the exploration of the friendship between Olivia and her best friend Imani. It felt flawed, messy and authentic. Rise to the Sun is the perfect book for the summer and should be paired with the fantastic playlist available here.