ARC Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  • Title: Malibu Rising
  • Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Release Date: 6/1/21
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Trigger Warnings: drugs, alcoholism, estranged father, adoption, death of a parent, stroke, drowning, fire, abandonment, infidelity
  • Rating: ★★★★★

Every year, Nina Riva and her siblings (Jay, Hud, and Kit) throw a massive end of summer party. Anyone who is anyone is there. Nina, a famous surfer and model, who has just been left by her famous tennis star husband, is not necessarily looking forward to the party. Jay is hoping that a girl he’s crushing on will show up. Meanwhile, Hud has resolved to tell Jay that he has been sleeping with Jay’s ex-girlfriend, Ashley. From the novel’s beginning, it is clear that this party will unravel and end in disaster, and the reader is left to discover how the day unfolds.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and I was thrilled to have the chance to read an ARC of her next book, Malibu Rising. Even better, Malibu Rising is about the four children of one of Evelyn’s seven husbands, Mick Riva. I actually went back and reread the section of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo about Mick Riva after finishing Malibu Rising. The brief reference to Mick being married to the most famous actress in the world was a perfect wink to fans of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

The novel is told from many different perspectives: each of the Riva children and many of their party guests. This makes the novel read almost like a puzzle. Each chapter and new perspective serve as a puzzle piece, giving the reader gets a little more insight into what is going to lead to the party’s calamatous end. The glimpses into the family history and the relationship between Mick and June (Nina, Jay, and Kit’s mom) further bring the reader into the story and hint at what has brought the members of the family to this fateful moment in August 1983.

The switches in point of view also prevent any of the characters from becoming one dimensional and makes each storyline less “black and white.” It would be easy to be angry at Hud for sleeping with his brother’s ex-girlfriend, but it is so clear that Hud loves Ashley, that it becomes murkier and harder to take sides. Mick has been an absentee father to his children, but Ried even gives the reader insight into his perspective and his desire to make amends with them. Of course, given the reader’s knowledge of the deep pain he caused them, it is hard to be on Mick’s side.

Nina Riva is a fascinating and compelling anchor to the story. I was so impressed by Nina’s selfnessess and strength and how she dropped out of high school to take care of her siblings. It is heart wrenching to watch Nina realize that she’s never lived a day for herself. I wanted to reach out and take care of Nina myself. There is also a certain thrill in being let behind the curtain of someone beautiful and famous and realizing how human they really are.

I love stories that start at the end and then guide the reader through the events that led to that end. The book’s prologue reveals that a major fire starts and Nina’s party that leads to Malibu burning. The prologue also refers to a “particular person” whose nature it is “to set fire and walk away.” I was immediately hooked and needed to know what happened and who set the fire. Each chapter is labeled by the time of day it takes place, and I eagerly noted with each hour that I must be closer to getting the answers I craved. Ried carefully crafted the story to build the suspense and keep her readers on the hook.

Malibu Rising hasn’t even been released yet, but I am already eager to read it again. The Rivas and their story are certainly going to stay with me for a long time.


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