Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Book review

Malibu Rising is my second book by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The first was Daisy Jones and The Six, which I loved. It was the reason I was excited to read this. That and the fact Malibu Rising has been billed as the perfect summer read. In terms of setting, it’s absolutely made for the beach / pool-side as it effortlessly evokes the coastline and warm weather of Malibu, California with its picturesque backdrops and surfing references.

Opening sentence: Malibu catches fire.

The legendary Riva family

Told in two time frames – the present 1980s, when the book is set, and back to the 1960s when Nina’s parents meet. Who is Nina? Well, she is the eldest of the Riva siblings (June marries rock-star Mick Riva and they have four children: Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit), the stars of this book.

None of them have a close relationship with their father and we learn how this affects them all. I really enjoyed each siblings’ storyline. From the glamour of model Nina with her tennis-star husband to gentle Hud, seemingly confident Jay and Kit who is finding her place in the world, they were all great to read about.

What Malibu Rising also did well was portray the other side of a glamourous lifestyle. Showing the cracks in the surface which, as we know, is where the real drama happens. Events culminate at the annual Riva party in Nina’s mansion, anyone who’s anyone is there and things get out of control…

Someone should tell them all, Nina thought, paradise doesn’t exist.

Nature vs nurture

The family storyline covers the nature vs nurture debate – how much of our parents character is in us? How much learnt behaviour can be rejected later in life? This is explored nicely through all of the siblings and I enjoyed the synergy and fact is added to the development all their characters.

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

Malibu didn’t quite rise for me

In the second half of the book a lot of secondary characters pop up at the party and we get a small glimpse into their lives and situations. I think the problem for me here was that I didn’t care? They were all part of the high-glam showbiz circuit of the 1980s, and while I appreciated the kitsch value of this, I felt there was enough going on in the main storyline with the six family members, so I would have been happy to just focus on them.

Overall, Malibu Rising didn’t hit the dizzy heights of its cover quotes for me, a great escapist read but I finished it without feeling invested in any of the characters.

Have you read Malibu Rising? Always interested to hear what people thought when a book doesn’t quite go the way they (I) expected.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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