Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of those instant-read authors for me. I’ll bet she is for you, too.
If I hear about a new book she has, I’m sooo there. Though I like some of her books better than others, she has never gone wrong in my eyes. I’ll say she didn’t go wrong with Malibu Rising, either, though this is one of those books I liked a little less than her others.
Malibu Rising follows the Riva family through two timelines. In one, we see patriarch Mick and matriarch June as they fall in love and start a family. The storyline spans decades, from the blind wonder of new love to the grit of reality.
In the other timeline, we jump ahead in time and follow the Riva offspring over one eventful day. The objective: catch some sweet, sweet waves and prep for a huge beach party.
Our main character, Nina Riva, is feeling out of sorts. Rich, beautiful, and responsible, she carries the weight of her family, as well as that of America’s lusty gaze, on her bronze shoulders. Her story evolves through both timelines. We see her growing into the woman she is, as well as the unease with the woman she has become.
What I Like about Malibu Rising
Well, it is a Taylor Jenkins Reid book. Nuff said?
The flashback timeline, the one showing the making and breaking of the Riva family, is engaging, though it’s a tale we’ve heard before. Boy meets naive girl, wraps her up in rapturous love, knocks her up a few times, and then gets a wandering eye.
Though it’s a storyline we can foreshadow as soon as we see the stars in the girl’s inexperienced eyes, it’s still interesting and tragic to follow.
The character of Kit, the plucky youngest sibling, is the one I was most curious about. She’s a character not fully drawn but still worth following more, which brings me to…
What Could Be Improved
The other timeline, the one taking place over one day, is a little bit meh. Most of the action happens inside Nina’s head. While Nina is likable, the action in her head is kind of…bland.
Arrrrrrrg, I hate saying it because I feel like I’m betraying both Taylor Jenkins Reid and Nina, but dammit, she’s bland. Blaaaaaand!
I know Reid can write dynamic characters. She’s done it before in her other novels. Comparing anything to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is unfair because that book is like lightning, but I can’t help but yearn for my Evelyn. Or for my Daisy Jones.
Comparing an author’s latest book to their other works must be infuriating. And here I’ve done it.
To be fair, I should rate Malibu Rising on its own merit. So I give it four arbitrary stars out of five (if you believe in assigning star values). It’s a good book.
My main misgiving is born from my own bias; I’m impatient with stories that are supposed to unravel in one eventful day where anything could happen. Why does everything have to happen in one day? Gosh, it just seems like a lot to do. Doesn’t anyone need a nap or some alone time to recharge with all of that stuff going on?
There’s only so much you can pack into a day, and giving the one-day storyline as much bulk and significance as the lifelong one just doesn’t happen here. In some cases, it seems almost as if the one-day storyline stretches more than it needs to be to give it more real estate in the book.
The party notably introduces several side characters and their shenanigans, who have no significance in the story. We even get a surprise additional main character near the end of the night, at which point it’s too late to matter.
Overall, though, Malibu Rising is a worthwhile story. Reid makes me care about bland Nina and her future. I’m glad I read it and look forward to her next.
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published June 2021
Penguin Random House