Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

June 25, 2021


After Daisy Jones and the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid has become one of my only auto-buy authors, so when I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book from Penguin Random House for review, I felt like Christmas had come very early (in January to be precise!). See below for my thoughts on the hot girl summer book everyone is talking about right now.


 From Goodreads:


"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."


My thoughts:


My expectations for this book were sky high. Were they met? I think almost is the best way to describe it. I did really enjoy this book, but I found myself feeling it just didn't quite capture me in the way that Daisy Jones and the Six did, which is also how I felt about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (for different reasons).


Firstly, let's talk about the good. I loved the alternating story lines of the 1950s and 1980s, which I felt were weaved together seamlessly. Often when an author starts putting flashbacks into a book I find myself rolling my eyes and trying to get through them as quickly as possible - they feel like a filler rather than actually adding anything to the story. But in this book, TJR uses them effectively to construct an illuminating backdrop against which to set the events of one night. We find out so much about the Riva family past and what has led them to this night, which leads to a very strong connection between us as the reader and the characters.


I also really liked some of the difficult, raw struggles which the Riva family go through, particularly the dynamic between Jay and Hudson and the events which occur throughout the book which challenge and threaten their relationship. I felt very connected to the characters, and really felt myself empathising with everything Nina as the oldest sibling had to endure; I was invested in her character arc and was rooting for her to come out of the other side of her hardship which really drove the book along for me. It takes real skill as a writer to be able to drive along a book purely through characters rather than with an actual plot, and for the most part I do think TJR succeeded in this. 


However, my main criticism of this book is that it's just too long. I found myself getting quite bored in places which is unusual for a TJR book as I usually devour them. It's the exact opposite criticism that I had of Evelyn Hugo, which I thought was far too short! Maybe there's just no pleasing me, but I think it's a shame that a book set around one night was longer than a book which told the story of seven entire marriages.


I also thought the book was rather unrealistic in some places, which I can't go into without spoiling parts of the story. All I will say is that there are certain events/people who enter the story at the very last minute (i.e. last 50 pages), who somehow end up being a central part of the finale, which all felt a little random and unfounded to me.


However, I am very much nit-picking with these criticisms at a book which I most definitely really enjoyed and would highly recommend. I think it is most definitely the perfect book for a summer beach read!


Those are my thoughts on Malibu Rising. Have you read this book? Will you be adding it to your summer reading list?

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