Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid Book Review

Blurb

A lifetime holding it together. 

One party will bring it crashing down. 

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party and anticipation is at 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 centre 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 to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth. 

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

And Kit has a couple of 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. 

Book Stats

Format: audiobook
Length: 11 hours 5 minutes
Published: 2021
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Source: Audible

Goodreads

Review

Malibu Rising was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021, and though it hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations, I still very much enjoyed my time reading it. 

I decided to listen to Malibu Rising on audio as I’d loved Taylor Jenkins Reid’s previous book, Daisy Jones and the Six, on audio. I do think the book is suited to audio, though I’d love to re-read it physically and compare the two experiences. 

For most of the book we follow two timelines. In the main narrative, we’re following Nina and her siblings in the countdown to the party, and all the drama it entails. In the background narrative, we go back to the beginning of Nina’s parents’ relationship: how Mick Riva met and married their mother, and how the siblings grew up and became who they are. I really enjoyed the backstory to Nina and her family. The context it provided added a depth to the book that I think would have been missing without it. A narrative is always more interesting than lengthy exposition. 

Out of all the siblings, my favourite was Nina. Perhaps because she was the eldest, I could relate to her more. I liked how strong she was as a person, and how Reid gave her flaws that are completely believable. I could feel how restrained she is as a character within the text, just from her actions and dialogue. Reid spells very little out in this book. She’s very good at showing rather than telling and letting the reader draw their own conclusions. 

The bit that sort of let me down a little was the ending. Reid does a good job of building tension throughout the earlier parts of Malibu Rising, but the climax doesn’t quite deliver on that promise. For me, it fell a little flat. The ending felt sad. I have some complex feelings that I can’t say much about because of spoilers. But it made me think about the bigger picture when it comes to family relationships. I just wish that there had been more of a dramatic end to the story, something that would have taken that earlier tension and really made use of it. 

Malibu Rising was a quick read, and an easy one too. I felt quite happy reading it in large chunks. I never felt bored, or like the complexity of the story was too overwhelming. Though it’s quite an omniscient point of view, I still empathised with the characters and felt like I knew them. As per usual with Reid, the characters and story really do feel real. It feels more like biography than fiction. 

A beautiful summer read. 

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