Book Review, New(ish) Release

Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, the family drama that ensues will change their lives will change forever.

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 rising 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.

This is very different from my usual picks but I the blurb was intriguing so I gave it a shot. I kind of expected it to be a dnf, especially after seeing how it jumped around in time, from the past to the future. A lot of authors can’t do that well but it was done perfectly here. The story centers around Nina Riva and, to a lesser extent, her three siblings. I’m not really sure how to classify this one, except to say it definitely isn’t a romance. It’s almost an anti-romance considering their parents’ story and how Nina’s marriage unfolded, but there are some small victories at the end which sated my need for a love story.

Describing this as an emotional rollercoaster is putting it mildly. The highs are so sweet and satisfying, but the lows are devastating. Still, the ending made me smile and made me happy for the Riva kids and a few select others. Things wrap up neatly at the end despite a lack of closure on some fronts and an ecological disaster. The ending is somewhat anticlimactic, leaving questions unanswered for a few characters. But for others, including Nina, it was absolutely perfect. It was exactly what I wanted for those characters and I loved it.

One question dogged me throughout the story because I wondered why the author had chosen to set this in the 1980’s. I was expecting the time period to play a part in the fabric of the story, but it didn’t seem to matter. The story could’ve taken place at any time so that was slightly disappointing. Things took a turn at the very end though, where the story jumped from the main characters to a handful of random supporting characters, most of whom hadn’t been so much as mentioned earlier. I had a love/hate relationship with the author’s choice to change perspectives because it was taking up words, space and action that should have been focused on the main characters. On the other hand, these otherwise inconsequential side characters were all fascinating in their own rights so their stories drew me in.

That’s when I realized the author had pulled off the quintessential 80’s movie montage by adding these layers, so now the time period made all the sense in the world. I was surprised to be so taken with this book because it didn’t have the suspense, danger, romance or as much humor as my normal fare. This was something different entirely, focused on familial relationships and how life sometimes gets away from us. The focus was more on the consequences than the character’s actions because they didn’t always have a lot of choices. Ultimately, it’s a story about love, devotion and how we adapt to care for those we love. And I loved every minute, reading the whole thing at once without putting it down.

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