Review: Malibu Rising


Manwela Katas

Malibu Rising is a historical fiction novel written by New York Times bestselling author, Taylor Jenkins Reid. The story follows four famous siblings (The Riva’s): Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit. Their father, Mick Riva, is a famous singer and a universal heartbreaker. Nina is a 25-year-old world-renowned model that has just separated from her infamous tennis champion. Jay is a champion surfer who’s looking for the love of his life. Hud is a very successful photographer from a young age. And Kit, the youngest, has hidden surfing talents that she has yet to show the world. The book takes place over 24 hours and takes you through the Riva’s annual end-of-summer party in Malibu on August 27, 1983. Flashbacks happen throughout part one of the book; they take you back to Mick Riva’s career and relationships, and the book specifically focuses on one relationship, June Costas, the mother of the four famous Riva’s. However, the flashbacks aren’t only for Mick and June, they also go back to the four Riva’s childhoods and work their way up to the present (the annual summer party).

The characters in this book are so complex and beautifully written. With every character being introduced, the author provides the reader with a backstory which gives you a better understanding about each one of them and how they’re connected. Despite all this information, the author is still able to specifically focus on a few like Nina, Jay, Hud, Kit, Mick, and June. In the flashbacks, the author talks about each of the character’s childhoods, their relationships with their parents, how they were raised, their careers, etc. This made me fee connected with these characters on such a deep level because of how realistic their stories were. I found myself empathizing with Nina the most because she had many qualities that I tend to have; for example, she grew up having to raise her sibling on her own. As a result, she grows up too fast and constantly feels like she had to take care of everyone around her, meaning she was never able to live for herself. In the book, the author described her as a “doormat”. Nina is also a people pleaser–she always fears making others upset or uncomfortable. She never follows what her heart truly desires, she always feels the need to do what she should be doing instead of what she wants, and the story sort of follows her this specific development arc towards the ending.

Throughout reading this book, I felt as though it was very detailed and well thought out. The book would slowly introduce a new character and dive into several aspects of their lives, which allowed me to feel as if I’m a part of the story and helped me get a better understanding of each character. I enjoyed being able to read about each of the character’s pasts and the traumas they’ve experienced. The transition between past and present was always seamlessly done and never left the reader in a lost state. The novel also has a perfect balance of realism and chaos, which gives you the fiction part of the book. Reading about these characters’ past made me relate to them in a way most books don’t allow me to feel. I felt so connected and attached to these characters, knowing the things they’ve experienced. Taylor Jenkins Reid is able to transport you as a reader into the environment of the book. A reader on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s website explains, “Reid’s descriptions of Malibu are so evocative that readers will swear they feel the sea breeze on their faces or the grit of the sand between their toes.”

Another part of this book that stood out to me was its subtle introduction to multiple emotions. Many books may focus on one mood throughout the book, however, in this book it was constantly changing which is something I admire so much about it. I was able to laugh, cry, smile, grieve, and whatever else emotion you can think of.

As much as people love this book some may say that it does not reach the standard of the other Taylor Jenkins Reid books like Daisy Jones & The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo which both have over 4.3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. A recent review article by The AU review mentions, “I think Taylor Jenkins Reid fans will enjoy this addition to her universe and enjoy picking up on all the easter eggs hidden in the text, but for me, nothing can beat the magic of Evelyn Hugo.” However, that doesn’t not take away from the fact that Malibu Rising has received a lot of positive feedback from its readers, with the book receiving over 4 out of 5 star ratings on Goodreads and Amazon. A Goodreads review mentions, “There are some authors who were born to tell stories and TJR is one of them. I love the way I’m always pulled into her books. She has a way of writing words that seep into my very being. every single thing the characters feel, from the big heart-shattering betrayals to the small moments of sibling pride, I feel. TJR doesn’t just get a reader to sympathize for characters, but empathize with them, and that’s what makes reading her books a truly great experience. The Riva siblings feel like real people, people I have come to know and understand and appreciate, and I love that.” I like how different lessons may be taken from this book depending on who you are, it makes the read feel very personal and tailored to you. For anyone that’s willing to read 380 pages of fresh air, relationship problems, family drama, and celebrity culture, this book is definitely for you.