Malibu Rising Surfs into Readers’ Hearts

“They had taught her that family is found, that whether it be blood or circumstances or choice, what binds us does not matter. All that matters is that we are bound.”

Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid

My Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

In Summary of Malibu Rising

It’s the end of summer in Malibu 1983, and the Riva family is hosting their annual party that everybody who is an anybody wants to attend. The Riva family consists of Nina (eldest sibling and surfer/supermodel), Jay (professional, award-winning surfer), Hudson (photographer), and Kit (youngest and a surfer). Everyone wants to be connected to them; that is, everyone but their own father, the world-famous singer – Mick Riva – who has been absent for twenty years due to his nature as a narcissist and cheater. 

TJR’s Malibu Rising takes us on a journey through the Riva family’s traumatic background to build up to the climactic party that challenges each of the Riva siblings to face their secrets. What really matters: family – biological or chosen – or personal desires? And what conclusions can they make before the mansion is destroyed in flames?

Warning: Infidelity, domestic abuse, abandonment, heavy drug/alcohol use, alcoholism, death of family member

PositivesNegatives
Setting and themes strongly constructedFirst half is very different in pacing and development than second half
Plot twists are ones that I didn’t expect and significantly added to the plotSide characters focused on without much development
Connections to TJR’s book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, successfully tied in

…just as it is in Malibu’s nature to burn, so was it in one particular person’s nature to set fire and walk away.

The Review

Malibu Rising is a fiery, family anecdotal history that lays the foundation (or lack thereof) for the Riva siblings in 1980s Malibu. 

Oh yeah, and a whole lot of surfing. 

Anyone who has read TJR’s books know that she is a master at character development, and she certainly does not disappoint when it comes to the backstory of the parents (Mick and June) and Nina. Nina tugs at heartstrings with her motherly love of an eldest sister responsible for her younger siblings, and the boys are sweet opposites of each other that you will be rooting for along the way. However, I felt that Kit was the most underdeveloped of the siblings, but that’s what happens when you are an author trying to juggle so many characters; at least one of them is bound to be less developed. 

This TJR novel may feel less eventful than the somewhat-sister novel (maybe more like a 1st cousin?) to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, since Malibu Rising is focused on weaving an emotional family portrait before narrowing in on a single night, rather than taking us on a rollercoaster of events over a series of decades. 

Don’t let this discourage you, though, as the themes about family are worth it. 

I will admit that the party scene (second half of the novel) was a bit overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time; overwhelming because there are so many people mentioned and random things happening, and underwhelming because we don’t truly get to know these side characters. Once again, this is a characterization critique similar to what I mentioned earlier, but this is TJR’s attempt to pan around to various moments and people that make up this tumultuous and momentous party. I am curious to hear from other readers whether or not TJR is successful in this; my opinion on this is still up for debate. 

Anyway, some of the Riva siblings’ secrets become a bit convoluted in the craziness of side characters’ shenanigans. Plus some of the party jokes and behavior made me roll my eyes.

Would it really be an ‘80s celebrity rager without massive amounts of drama and a rising insurance premium? 

But let me tell you what I’m really here for with this novel:

The fashion.

The setting.

The family drama and unbreakable sibling bonds. 

Based simply on these things, this book is “off the hook” and avoided a “wipeout” as TJR’s newest novel. I am “stoked” for others to read it.

(Okay, I have officially met my quota for surfer slang now…)

READ IF YOU LIKE: Parties, family, sibling bonds, surfing, the beach, California, celebrity lifestyle, TJR books, family drama, slow-burn novels

Malibu Rising Book Information

  • Published: 2021
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN:  978-1524798659
  • Format: Hardback (purchased through Book of the Month)
  • Length: 384 pages

Learn About & Support the Author – TJR

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