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  • Robert C. Kukla

An Author Worth Reading: Leah Johnson

Leah Johnson has only published two novels, You Should See Me In A Crown and Rise To The Sun. I have read both and after doing so, she is officially on my list of authors who I will read anything new that they put out.

In You should See Me In A Crown, we follow our main character Liz who is struggling in her small town in Indiana and is desperate for an opportunity to leave and pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. She thought she had secured that plan by attending an elite university and performing for their orchestra. But when the financial aid she was counting on falls through, she has to quickly come up with an alternative solution and she does so by competing to become prom queen which the prize for is a scholarship. There’s one catch though, Liz begins to develop feelings for her fellow contestant Mack and the story goes from there.

Rise To The Sun is a beautiful ode to music festivals and the community found within them. We follow Olivia and Toni, two strangers who meet at a three day music festival and fall in love. Olivia is still getting over her recent break up and the vicious rumors circulating at her school, and Toni is an aspiring musician who is still grieving over the loss of her father, a famous musician who she hopes to follow in his footsteps.

What I love about both of these books and Leah Johnson’s writing is the way she manages to give us the cute and fluffy romance tropes we love when reading the genre, but also balance them with some harder hitting themes.

In You Should See Me In A Crown, Johnson not only gives us a cute romance but it is also a story about class as well as some disability representation. We see through Liz’s eyes what it feels like to rely on financial aid in order to pursue a higher education which will result in more opportunities and we also get to see the struggles of sickle cell anemia as she watches her brother suffer with the disease.

In Rise To The Sun, we not only are given a really cute “meet cute” type of story but she explores themes of gun control and the fear associated with being in a crowded setting with the threat of a mass shooting potentially occurring.

Both these stories also handle the queer representation really well. These aren’t just your typical girl loving girl stories. I feel like in a lot of these cutesy romance stories we get, the characters can sometimes feel like walking stereotypes, but each of the characters featured in Leah Johnson’s novels are given layers that make them pop off the page and make you feel like you could potentially know them in real life.

Overall, if you want to read romance stories but you want them to have some substance to them, I highly recommend both of Leah Johnson’s novels and I will certainly be looking forward to anything she writes in the future.

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