Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing me a free digital copy of Malibu Rising in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.


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.

My Review:

Well, I will start by saying that I anticipate being in the minority on this one, I did like Malibu Rising but I didn’t love it, even though I have really liked a lot of TJR’s previous novels. So for this review, I am going to be comparing and contrasting what I liked and didn’t like.

What I liked: The characters. In my opinion TJR write some of the most relatable, honest and realistic characters. I fell in love with the Riva siblings and honestly, I wanted to know more! They are such a dynamic group that they could easily fill another novel! I felt like in Malibu Rising, the siblings are written as a collective group, but I would have liked to get to know each one on a deeper individual level.

The past couple novels from TJR (Daisy Jones and the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) had very strong settings, focused on a specific decade, and were very well done in that regard. However, in Malibu Rising, set in the 80’s, I just didn’t get as strong of vibes for the decade. Maybe it’s because the 80’s aren’t all that long ago, but other than a few descriptions of some outfits, the decade nuances just did not shine through in this novel.

The biggest problem I had was with the structure and setup for the entire novel. The book takes places over the course of 24 hours, part one is 7am to 7pm, and part two is 7pm to 7am. Part one leads up to the big party Nina is going to have at her house at 7pm. When I saw that the book was set up this way, I was thrilled. I think a book taking place in just 24 hours is so fun! However, in part one, each chapter is an hour in the day (7 am, 8 am, 9 am etc). But within each chapter, only about 10% was about what was happening in the present and instead was 90% about backstory of the Riva’s parent’s meeting, marriage, and lives. I just thought it didn’t make sense to have each chapter take place in an hour of the day, but spend almost the whole chapter in the past.

I think it would have worked better to make part one about the Riva’s parents’ story, and part two be about the Riva siblings. I think I would have been more engaged that way, but instead the pacing was clunky and didn’t ever have that “pull you in” moment.

Did I like the book: Yes, it was entertaining and interesting. But I did not love it, I had too many issues to love it. I will still continue to read what Taylor Jenkins Reid puts out, because I think she is a very talent writer and storyteller. I would also still recommend this book if it sounds appealing to you or if you really like TJR. I did really like the ending and how everything came together, but as I type this, it’s been about a week since I finished the book and I already feel it fading from my memory.