REVIEW: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In brief: The Riva family hasn’t had it easy, growing up while their absent father travels the world in luxury. But now they are adults, they have exactly what they want – or do they? It will take the annual party to sort that out.

The good: Taylor Jenkins Reid always writes books that capture your heart.

The not-so-good: I had to do other things while reading this book.

Why I chose it: Love Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books.

Year: 2021

Pages: 369

Publisher: Hutchinson (Penguin)

Setting: Malibu, California

Rating: 10 out of 10

A new Taylor Jenkins Reid novel is always something to celebrate. Her books are without a doubt, a reminder of why reading is great.

Malibu Rising is set in the 1980s, in the always sunny spot of Malibu. Despite the 1980s setting, it feels very modern (but without the distractions of mobile phones and the internet). The story focuses on the four Riva siblings – Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit. They are the children of world-famous singer Mick, but they know little more of Mick than the public does. They have lived their lives with their mother away from the spotlight. But now that the siblings are adults, they’ve come into their own. Nina is a supermodel and talented surfer, while Jay makes his living as a pro surfer. Hud is a photographer, able to get great action shots of Jay and Kit is the baby sister overshadowed by the others. But being self-sufficient doesn’t mean that their problems have gone away. On the day of the famed Riva party (now held in Nina’s mansion), secrets and truths come to light, culminating in very different lives come morning.

The story isn’t just about the party though. It traces back through how Mick met their mother and their struggles growing up. The complexities of their lives are revealed through page time with each sibling. The party scenes are also detailed with fictional celebrities who are just as fascinating as the Riva siblings (but in some cases, a whole lot wilder). Tracing the party as it goes from wild to out of control is fun (it’s not your house getting trashed) and nicely sobers up into deeper topics as sexist attitudes come to the fore in the house while major revelations are happening on the beach. Taylor Jenkins Reid has a great way of enveloping the past into the present and it’s in full force in Malibu Rising. As the story moves between 1950s and 1980s Malibu, it’s seamlessly told with no character left hanging or unexplored. The characters have flaws (some major, major flaws) but they are predominantly likeable, or have some redeeming feature.

The writing is also on point. It’s engaging, world building and illuminates the world of Malibu in the reader’s head from the beach to the family’s restaurant. It’s all connected with no extraneous words. Plot, characters, writing – all a big tick. Definitely one of my favourite reads for the year, as you can easily forget the world and follow the Rivas instead.

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