Adult Contemporary Historical Fiction

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid Review

As a teenager in the 90s, I spent many summers in Southern California. Malibu Rising is set in the 80s, and I can’t say how much changed between those two decades, but the vibe of saltwater and ocean spray of driving along the Pacific Coast Highway of lemon-juice highlights and forever rinsing sand from your hair… Gosh, the nostalgia while reading this one was real. Even if the location doesn’t evoke such wistfulness in you, Malibu Rising is a delicious family drama, and the quintessential summer read.

June and Mick Riva got married young (emphasis on the young). June with ambitions of having a family and never working another day in her family’s beachside restaurant. Mick with dreams of becoming a rockstar. One of them gets their wish, and, surprisingly, it’s the rockstar one. For those of you who’ve read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & the Six, the name Mick Riva will ring a bell. For those of you who haven’t, add those books to your to-be-read stacks — they are story gold!

Over the next two decades, Mick climbs the ladder of fame to dizzying heights, yet a family man (like his father before him), he is not. June is left to raise Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit while running her parents’ restaurant and reading about her ex-husband’s latest marriage in magazines. Humiliation and heartbreak eat away at her as her kids grow up in the cold shadow of their father’s fame with none of his financial spoils.

Malibu Rising touches on alcoholism, child abandonment, and just all-around family dysfunction, yet there is nothing despondent about this read. Within the pages, we see that, yes, the cycle of dysfunction often repeats a generation later, but also that it can be broken. Hope, there is hope, and overall, Malibu Rising is a book about resilience. 

“She had to choose what, of the things she inherited from the people who came before her, she wanted to bring forward. And what, of the past, she wanted to leave behind.” 

Taylor Jenkins Reid

What Jenkins Reid has achieved here is a propulsive plot that one moment dazzles with Hollywood excess (think drug benders and people swinging from chandeliers) and laid-back beach vibes the next. Yet unfailingly, Malibu Rising returns to its central theme of sibling bonds and found family. It’s the relationships here that draw us in and tug on our heartstrings in such a way that the pages just keep on turning. Of course, we’re itching to discover what happens to the (all grown up) central characters of this story: Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit. After all, we learn within the first pages that the night of Nina Riva’s famous party will end in flames.

“It began […] at the home of Nina Riva—during one of the most notorious parties in Los Angeles history. 

The annual park grew wildly out of control sometime around midnight.

By 7:00 a.m., the coastline of Malibu was engulfed in flames.

Because, just as it was in Malibu’s nature to burn, so was it in one particular person’s nature to set fire and walk away.”

Taylor Jenkins Reid

There are many books I have read within a single day, but few have left me with the unquenchable need to be read within a single sitting. Malibu Rising is such a book.


Book: Malibu Rising
Published: Hutchinson
Pages: 369
Publication Date: May 27th, 2021
Stars: 5/5

Penguin Random House kindly sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.

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