Book Reviews

Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Having been a fan of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I was so excited for Malibu Rising. Then I saw it featured as one of the Influencer Audiobooks on Libro.Fm and I was sold. And Malibu Rising completely surprised me in a way I was not expecting. Keep reading this review for my full thoughts.


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 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.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with Malibu Rising considering the hype. And while I liked some elements, there were others that fell flat. Let’s start with some disclaimers. I read Malibu Rising on Audiobook and the narrator, Julia Whelan, was fabulous. Whelan made the whole story and characters flow in an almost cinematic way. And because I was listening on audiobook, a lot of the writing which may have bothered me was lost in the lullaby of Whelan.

Malibu Rising is a story about family. It presents a variety of different characters which, for the most part (until around the ending), worked for me. Mostly because it’s focused on the Riva children and I enjoyed their stories. Reid presents stories about success and sacrifice, family and love. The ways we subtly chip away at each other, hurt the ones we love, and try to smooth over the holes in our apologies. While I enjoyed the characters stories, I do feel like Reid tries to give everyone their depth and chance to be as flawed as they want.

Which in general works, except for the fact that I could not get behind Mick at all. Even till the end, I could see where and how Reid wanted us to, but I was so against him that these moments just felt like a betrayal. And not even to June because I felt like, as a character, she lacked a lot of depth relative to the Riva siblings. But also for just in general for him being who he was. That being said, I feel like there were moments where I wanted more examination of the sibling’s characters as well and, because of the way the book was written, sometimes it felt like we were strangely distant from their thoughts.


In some ways, Malibu Rising had almost a cinematic feel to the ways the characters orbit around each other. The ways they intersect, the micro-stories of those at the party, and the emphasis on destiny and choices. Reid presents characters with their failings and flaws exposed on the page. But where Malibu Rising tries to be a multi-generational story about family, love, and forgiveness I felt that June’s story fell somewhat flat for me.

So even though the ending got me emotionally because I love a good story with (found)family and I enjoyed Kit’s character, there were some times that I had trouble with Malibu Rising. Ultimately, I do think that the latter halves felt very engaging with a fast paced feel. It does center on family as well so if you like that, like me, then you also might enjoy Malibu Rising.

Find Malibu Rising on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound,, Google Play, & The Book Depository.


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