Book Review

Malibu Rising

Malibu Rising

  • Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Publication Date: June 1, 2021
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: infidelity, drug use, domestic violence, alcoholism, death of a parent, violence

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over–especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud–because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own–including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

I know that TJR is a buzzy author in the bookish circles, but somehow I haven’t read any of her books until now. And I’m kind of kicking myself for missing out on this incredible talent. I had checked out the description of the story, but honestly? It didn’t really do this book justice. At all.

This is one of those books that combines a number of elements into one outstanding book that feels more like a visceral experience than a simple story. And I found myself unable to put it down, reading until the wee hours of the morning, because I just couldn’t stop reading until I found out exactly what happened to this family that felt so real. So I’m just going to rave about the things that drew me into this story.

The setting. I’ve never been to Malibu. But reading this gave me the sense of what it must have been like growing up and living a life there from the 1950s through the early 80s, watching it change from a little beachside place to a glamorous town. It gave me the feeling of sand between my toes, wind in my hair, and salt on my skin. And it made me with that I could go to a place that doesn’t exist that way anymore.

The dual timeline. This book tells the story of the Riva siblings, but also the story of their parents. I never felt like it jumped around, or left things out. All of the information I wanted to know was included, and shared little by little over the course of the story. So as we learn more about what is happening in the present day, we also learn more of the background story that created the current circumstances. It was really cool to see, and never got confusing, surprisingly. That’s talent.

The storyline. The story is told over the course of 24 hours, and focuses mainly on the four Riva siblings. Each of them is so vivid and well-rounded, with their own character arc that I loved reading about. There honestly wasn’t a single sibling that I didn’t like — they were all equally intriguing and complicated and lovable in such different ways. And the relationships between them were so complex and genuine. I loved seeing the sibling bonds, and how deep those ran. 

The writing. It was beautifully written, genuine, and it conveyed such profound emotion. I laughed, I cried, I was heartbroken right alongside the characters. There were quite a few surprises in the reading, and I never quite knew what was going to happen next. It was very much a character-driven story, but since I fell in love with the majority of the main characters (Mick excluded), I didn’t mind at all. 

LGBTQ rep. I wasn’t expecting there to be LGBTQ rep in the book, but there was. And I was all about it! I loved seeing one of the main characters come to terms with their sexuality, and work their way around to coming out. It was especially nice to have it appear unexpectedly in the very first book I read during Pride Month. 🌈

I listened to part of this as an audiobook, narrated by Julia Whelan. Her voice suited the story perfectly, and kept me intrigued. This audiobook is available through libro.fm which allows you to support indie bookstores.

2 replies »

  1. ooooh i loved reading this review and i love the rep!! i love reading character driven stories and malibu rising sounds like the perfect read!! i’ll check it out~

    Liked by 1 person

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