Historical Fiction Book Review

Malibu Rising

Malibu RisingMalibu Rising
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Published: June 1, 2021
Genres: Family Saga, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 365
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library


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.

Also by this author: Evidence of the Affair

Warnings: Sex, Violence

My Thoughts

We tend to take celebrity infidelities as a given, a form of entertainment, so much so that families are forgotten, human emotion barely feels real to the casual observer. With a flurry of people, it’s easy to get swept up, lost in the sea of celebrity worship. Malibu Rising is an ambitious family saga following the lives of the Riva family, the long-abandoned children of a legendary singer. The story begins with another celebrity scandal, model Nina has been dumped by her tennis pro husband, and as she prepares for the biggest party of the year she looks back on the past.

The story shifts back and forth in time from the present day in the 80s to the Riva family past starting in the 50s when the sibling’s mother, June, was a bright-eyed young woman herself. Past mistakes reverberate in the future, ultimately leaving the choice to push back or get carried away by the wave. I found myself tearing up at times and feeling genuinely heartbroken for some of the characters. Despite the leaps in decades from start to finish, the setting of Malibu felt timeless.

“Maybe our parents’ lives are imprinted within us, maybe the only fate there is is the temptation of reliving their mistakes.”

Where I struggled was the sheer amount of characters in this novel, the main cast is already big but with the addition of so many other characters with their own insane dramas, it really became difficult to keep track. In the grand scheme of Hollywood, it makes sense, a cacophony of celebrity gossip, a frantic industry that chews people up and spits them out. Taylor Jenkins Reid does wonderful character work and I found myself caring about each of the main characters even if some of their stories were drowned out.

I often hate celebrity culture and how outlandish it usually is, but this book managed to capture a piece of celebrity life and bring it back home. Overall, Malibu Rising was an entertaining ride that will please fans of Reid’s other books. I appreciate that she’s writing historical fiction that is fresh and exciting.


About Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, After I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Her novels have been Indie Next Picks, chosen by Book of the Month, and featured in People, US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, and more. Her newest novel, Daisy Jones and the Six, is a New York Times bestseller. She lives in Los Angeles.

I’m a Filipino American blogger, historian, and lazy writer. I enjoy books, video games, anime/manga, and smoking hookah.

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