Kirkus Reviews QR Code
RISE TO THE SUN by Leah Johnson


by Leah Johnson

Pub Date: July 6th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-338-66223-8
Publisher: Scholastic

Queer Black girls fall in love at a summer music festival.

When dating the top basketball recruit in Indiana turns disastrous, ruining her socially, emotionally, and in her mother’s eyes, perpetually in love 16-year-old Olivia Brooks begs her best friend, Imani Garrett, to take a summer road trip to the Farmland Arts and Music Festival in Georgia. Imani agrees on one condition: Olivia cannot hook up with anyone on the trip. Meanwhile, Toni Jackson is heading to Farmland for the first time without her musician-turned-roadie dad, who was killed 8 months ago. Joined by her best friend, Peter Menon (whose surname cues him as Indian), Toni is trying to figure her life out—college or something else? She believes that if she performs in the festival’s Golden Apple amateur competition, the truth will become clear. The four meet in Georgia, and when all the solo slots in the competition are full, Toni and Olivia agree to enter as a duo and help each other with their individual quests—Toni’s to perform on stage, Olivia’s to be distracted from the upcoming judicial hearing over violating behavior by her ex-boyfriend and to win the prize of a much-needed car. Although Imani and Peter feel more like devices than well-developed characters with substantial relationships to the protagonists, the exploration of Olivia’s tendency to adapt to others’ expectations of her is wonderfully nuanced, and her relationship with Toni is delightfully swoon-y.

A solid sophomore novel celebrating love that begs for a soundtrack.

(Fiction. 14-18)