2021 Reviews · Book club · contemporary fiction · new release

New Release Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title: Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Published: June 1st 2021

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 384

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

A lifetime holding it together.
One party will bring it crashing down.

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.

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.


Family rifts, emotional pain, personal pressures, duty, responsibility, past hurts and the cost of fame all combine in Malibu Rising, the latest novel from Taylor Jenkins Reid. With a focus on the world of the celebrity and the loved ones who live within this sphere, Malibu Rising offers the reader a highly entertaining story.

The prime events of Malibu Rising are focussed on a twenty-four-hour time period revolving around a party in the year 1983. As this story unfolds, we learn of the family tension, sibling issues, jealousy, revenge and the pressures of responsibility that have directly impacted the famous Riva family. Mick Riva is the patriarch of this difficult family fold. This famous singer abandoned his children many years ago, leaving tough emotional scars on his offspring. Nina, Mick’s eldest child, has been left with the responsibility of looking after the family, as her mother and Mick’s wife June struggles with alcoholism. Nina has managed to rise above her difficult family circumstances and achieve success as surfer. Nina isn’t the only Riva child to branch out into surfing, as Jay and Hus have gained recognition for surfing and photography. While little sister Kit has held her head high despite the challenges she has faced in the family department. But the famous Riva annual party brings some unexpected events for the Riva clan to contend with. With a family secret, a betrayal, a fight and a fire all brewing, which Riva family member will finally rise above their circumstances?

Malibu Rising marks the third novel I have read and enjoyed by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I must say I have been desperately waiting to read this new book from the bestselling author after I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This was such an amazing book that I was looking forward to extending my Taylor Jenkins Reid novel repertoire. I appreciated many elements of Malibu Rising, but it wasn’t a gold star read like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

Malibu in the early 1980s forms the setting base for this latest release from Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reid does a very good job of illuminating the specific location, time period, culture, fashion, celebrities and social issues of the 1980s era. Think The Beach Boys, combined with Cocktail and Point Break – then you pretty much have Malibu Rising. As a child of the 1980s, I really enjoyed take a step back in time to an era where I felt safe and carefree. The nostalgic element of Malibu Rising sat really well with me. Reid also highlights life in the 1960s clearly for the reader, thanks to the flashback sequences involving the father figure of this tale, Mick Riva and his rocky relationship with his wife June. I think a stronger focus on this era could have been a possibility, but the smaller segments we are presented with in the 1960s provides the audience with a decent glimpse into this time period.

Reid follows all four Riva siblings, their father and mother through the use of a shared narrative format, which then bounces between the present-day happenings of the party event, back to the past. I was able to stay on track with the various character interchanges and timeline shifts, thanks to Reid’s helpful prose. I do feel as though I connected with Nina far more than the other Riva siblings. I really felt the weight of Nina’s responsibility, which wrecked havoc with her personal ambitions as a famous model/surfer. I think Reid allows us to get to know Nina really well and the other Riva siblings are almost an afterthought, they are not so bold. I did enjoy following their stories and meeting the other side cast members that interact with the Riva family unit. Mick Riva, the patriarch of this family fold, was quite appalling. I didn’t like him at all and I knew from the very beginning that June made the mistake of hooking up with him! Sadly this means we have to bear witness to June’s downward descent into alcoholism. This area of Malibu Rising cut deep.

Family secrets, discretions, selfish acts, betrayals and all come into question as Malibu Rising spirals towards the final destruction point. The pace in Malibu Rising moves from a slow burn form of storytelling to a frantic race to the finish line. The second half of the book is consuming as new characters – some of which are famous celebrities, are inserted in the narrative.  These name drops helped to contextualise the book, but sometimes I felt as though all these extra figures were a distraction. With explosive events, shock revelations, hard decisions and important realisations made, Malibu Rising eventually comes to a climatic close.

Destined to be ‘it’ read of the year, Malibu Rising provides us with a reminder of the cost of fame, fortune and family legacies. My book club really enjoyed the discussion points on this one, so Malibu Rising would make a great book club choice if you are in need of a suggestion.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid was published on 1st June 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid, visit here.

4 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  1. Fantastic review! I have heard such good things about all of this authors books and I am planning on starting with this one as my first book of hers. I have it on my shelf just waiting for my attention!

    Liked by 1 person

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