Book Review for “Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Thanks for the free book, @PRHGlobal/@prhinternational!
Summary: “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.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical, Contemporary; USA – Malibu California; Other Categories: Novel, Family Saga, Coming of Age, Romance, LGBTQIA+, #OwnVoices.
Notice it says in the blurb: “By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames.” Yes, this is one of those books that you know that something monumental is going to happen at the end – in this case, who lights the fire. That means that the whole book is a setup for “who done it”! I’m not calling it a mystery novel, but that is essentially a major element here. Together with this, Reid gives us a family saga that is very expansive, incorporating a very large cast of characters. The thing is, I’ve often found that too many characters can be confusing for me, especially when some of them have similar names (its my dyslexia that does this to me). However, if anyone can juggle that many characters, Reid is the one to do it! That I only had to make an effort over two characters to remind myself who they were and their relationship to the main characters, was quite a feat, so brava to Reid for that.
What Reid also does as she increases the pace of this story, is throw in more and more characters who show up at this famous party. In fact, it ends up being quite a bit of a frenzy, with each and every one of them having some kind of motive and/or the opportunity, to be the one who lights that match. Obviously, this is what keeps us turning the pages – we read about each of them and their personal histories (which thankfully, are pretty brief) – and then begin to ascertain if they are the possible culprit, or not. Most of them seem to be likely prospective arsonists. Once Reid lays this groundwork, she begins to eliminate a few here and there, when those people leave the party. Mind you, while reading this, I also realized that any of the excluded suspects could always return to the scene of the upcoming crime, and I knew that it wouldn’t be beyond Reid’s ability to trick us like that, but still pull it off.
The biggest problem with such a huge entourage at the party is that I feel Reid didn’t give us as much room to really get to know the whole of the Riva family, and some of them felt a bit… flat. Yes, Nina is one of the major characters, and we do get to know her better than most of them. Also, Nina’s siblings, Kit, Jay, and Hud feel a touch more fleshed out, as does Mick and also June. Even so, I feel all of these more primary characters got a bit of a short shrift with this book, since the focus turns away from them so often in order to add more people to the doomed party list. Again, that I was able to understand and keep all of these people straight in my mind was still an amazing feat. I only wish that I could have had more sympathy for more of the primary characters.
Despite this, it is still a very compelling story to read, that pulls you in and gets you wondering and turning the pages at quite a good pace. In fact, I think the pacing here was absolutely spot on. More importantly, I feel that Reid also used the surfing as a type of metaphor for what was happening with all these people and the Riva family members. The question is, did Reid wipe out, or did she succeed in getting us to ride the wave all the way to shore? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out, but for me, I think this novel is so smoothly written, its like riding inside of the curl. That’s why I’ll warmly recommend it, and I think it deserves four and a half stars out of five! (Yes, just a touch behind Daisy Jones, I’m afraid – that book blew me away totally!)
Ballantine Books released “Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid on June 1, 2021. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley. Again, thanks for the free book, @PRHGlobal/@prhinternational.