Friday, June 4, 2021

Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date:  June 1, 2021
Publisher: Ballantine
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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.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."


Mick Riva's dream is to become a famous singer. At this point in the story, Mick is just your average guy though, not the huge celebrity he will become later. The moment he cast his eye on June at the beach in the 50s, he knew he had to marry her.  June's parents were hesitant, but June was head over heels in love with Mick. She loved everything about him--his bravado, his charisma, and his good looks. He was going somewhere and June wanted to come along.  Except things weren't easy for Mick and June after their honeymoon phase and once Mick makes it big, it's even harder.  Mick, a perpetual womanizer, can't say no to any female fan and consequently, his marriage with June is volatile at times.  That doesn't stop them from having three children and adopting one as well.  Fast forward to the Riva siblings as adults living in Malibu. There's Nina, the eldest and most responsible. Not only is she a successful surf model, she also takes over the role of the mother to the Rivas after June's passing. There's Jay, a professional surfer, and Hud who takes most of his epic surf photos.  Lastly, there's Kit, the baby of the family, and quite possible the best surfer in the family too.  At the end of each summer, the Rivas host an incredible party at Nina's beach house and celebrities flock to it.  This year it's going to be the party to end all parties....quite literally.  Taylor Jenkins Reid's Malibu Rising is such an evocative tale that I was obsessed with. 

In Malibu Rising the chapters alternate between the Riva siblings in the 1980s before the party and the past with a focus on Mick and June's relationship as well as the Riva children's childhood.  Reid does this so very well. I don't know how she manages it, but she somehow she develops all these characters so very well to the point where I was really invested despite their many tragic flaws.  For example, Mick is not a nice guy.  He is a dead-beat dad and eventually he leaves his kids to fend for themselves. He is the typical self-absorbed celebrity, but I found him so very entertaining.  June's story broke my heart, because she wanted to escape her life and the restaurant her family was strapped to, but in the end, she she ended up back at the very place she was avoiding. Mick let her down again and again, and she allowed it.  My heart broke, because she was so tormented at times and dealt with raising children on her own, her alcoholism, and continuous heartbreak.  

The Riva siblings are simply the best in Malibu Rising. Don't get me wrong, they aren't perfect, but they are so entertaining and real.  Reid did an amazing job creating an interesting family dynamic.  Since the Riva kids often had to fend for themselves, so this made them very close with one another. I enjoyed each and every one of them, but especially Nina. Nina's story is also sad at times, because she had to sacrifice so much to take care of her younger siblings. On the night of the party, she has a lot to deal with including her husband attending despite his public infidelity.  Nina is also withholding a secret during the party, but she isn't the only Riva to do so.  Many of the secrets will come to a head during their bash and let's just say, I was here for it.

Reid creates such a believable story, characters, and setting in Malibu Rising. Not only did I feel like I was back in the 80s, she made Malibu come to life. It was as if Malibu was its own character at times. The surf culture, the surfers, the beaches, the cliffs, and the canyons were all were so very vivid.

Guys, I don't know what else to say without giving too much away, but Taylor Jenkins Reid hits it out of the park with Malibu Rising. She went from writing very good contemporary fiction to writing outstanding historical fiction. I don't know how she brings the time period to life so well (and not just one time period but the 50s and the 80s), but she does it and does it beautifully.  Reid is now right up there with some of my favorite historical writers. If you are looking for an "unputdownable" beach read for the summer, look no further.  I am sure Malibu Rising will be a bestseller in no time and this book is going on a special spot on my bookshelf.



  1. Ahhh, I can't wait to read this book!!! So glad you loved it!

    1. It was awesome. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it! Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  2. Yay! I’m glad you liked it. I loved Evelyn Hugo and can’t wait to read this one.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. It was SO good. I hope you love it. Thanks for visiting, Aj.

  3. I’m about to start this tonight. I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo so I’m hoping this one will be just as enjoyable.

  4. I’m about to start this tonight. I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo so I’m hoping this one will be just as enjoyable.


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