Three days. Two girls. One life-changing music festival.
Olivia is an expert at falling in love . . . and at being dumped. But after the fallout from her last breakup has left her an outcast at school and at home, she’s determined to turn over a new leaf. A crush-free weekend at Farmland Music and Arts Festival with her best friend is just what she needs to get her mind off the senior year that awaits her.
Toni is one week away from starting college, and it’s the last place she wants to be. Unsure about who she wants to become and still reeling in the wake of the loss of her musician-turned-roadie father, she’s heading back to the music festival that changed his life in hopes that following in his footsteps will help her find her own way forward.
When the two arrive at Farmland, the last thing they expect is to realize that they’ll need to join forces in order to get what they’re searching for out of the weekend. As they work together, the festival becomes so much more complicated than they bargained for, and Olivia and Toni will find that they need each other, and music, more than they ever could have imagined.
I absolutely loved You Should See Me in a Crown, also by Leah Johnson, so I had sky-high hopes for Rise to the Sun. It would have been difficult for anything to live up to my expectations, but while I enjoyed Rise to the Sun, I found it to be pretty gimmicky and clichéd.
The biggest hurdle I found in enjoying Rise to the Sun was the unnecessary instalove. Infatuation/attraction would have been enough to get this story started – I don’t think Olivia and Toni needed to fall in love at first sight.
It was disappointing that the moment Toni and Olivia meet, everything we’ve learned about them gets thrown out the window. Toni is supposed to be incredibly quiet and withdrawn, barely speaking to even her best friend, let alone strangers. Instead, when she meets Olivia, she’s almost chatty, always there with a quick quip or comment, always with the right thing to say. Sure, she’s quiet compared to Olivia, but everyone in the world is quiet compared to Olivia. And while Olivia is famous for changing herself to complement whoever she wants to date, as soon as she meets Toni, she suddenly decides she’s going to be 100% herself at all times. Within a few chapters, Johnson sets precedents and then destroys them, making it difficult to trust the narrative for the rest of the book.
Also, not related but important; Olivia is a terrible friend. Imani consistently asks her to do little things – totally reasonable things that anyone would do for a friend. But the moment Olivia may be slightly inconvenienced by following through on a promise, she puts herself first. And then she’s surprised and confused when Imani is upset with her.
I am always here for bisexual representation, but Olivia’s level of neediness and compliance in choosing partners speaks to the worst stereotypes of bisexuality. Johnson does seem to try to make this a flaw of her personality, not her sexuality, but it would be easy for the non-discerning to believe otherwise.
If you put all of this aside and take Rise to the Sun at face value, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a young adult contemporary romance set at a music festival.