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Brooke's Pick: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Four famous siblings throw an epic end-of-summer party that goes dangerously out of control as secrets and loves that shaped this family’s generations come to light, changing their lives forever.

By now, if you're a reader of contemporary fiction, you've heard of Taylor Jenkins Reid. How could you not when her hit novel Daisy Jones and the Six was splashed everywhere you looked upon its release in 2019? Yes, Reid definitely has a fan club, so it is no surprise that her 2021 publication, Malibu Rising, was one of the most anticipated books of the year.

Up front, Malibu Rising is not the book that I expected to read. In fact, the novel's summary, detailing an epic party at a Malibu mansion hosted by the siblings of a famous rock star encompasses the second half of this story, but the first part of the book is quite different from that description.

Malibu Rising actually starts off as a family saga, bringing readers into the lives of Mick Riva (whose character makes an appearance in Reid's previous novels The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six) and his wife June before he became uber-famous and abandoned his family for fame and fortune. That family would come to include the Riva siblings - Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit - who have to learn how to navigate the world in their absent father's wake. The thing that brings the Riva crew together is surfing, and they bond over riding the waves and using the water to escape the struggle of their everyday lives.

The first half of Malibu Rising chronicles the rise and fall of Mick and June's relationship, shows how their kids suffered, yet persevered, without their father in their lives, and details their current standing in the world at the time of August 1983. The first half also shows how a dysfunctional childhood home manifests itself in adults and settles within them for the duration of their lives. I personally preferred this part of the book to the wild and crazy antics to come in the second half, and the exposé storytelling of this section reminded me much of the Daisy Jones saga.

Speaking of the second half, this part of the story is all about the notorious party eldest Riva sibling Nina throws every summer at her Malibu cliffside mansion. There are no invitations to this party - if you know about it, you are welcome to come, and the guest list includes some of L.A.'s biggest stars. Things kick off this year without a hitch, but soon this intimate gathering gets wildly out of control. This year the party is literally going to go up in flames and no one will leave unscarred. How did we get to this point? You will have to read Malibu Rising to find out.

Malibu Rising is a mixed bag, and while I am tempted to rate it 3 stars, I am going with 4 because I really enjoyed the Riva family story up until the party scenes. It is there that the novel lost me due to the multitude of characters introduced and the preposterous side storylines. It can be said that I personally am not cut out for any out-of-control Hollywood parties, but the way this part of the book was written made it difficult to follow and engage with. I almost felt as if I was standing in the midst of the chaos and insanity was being thrown at me left and right. Perhaps that was Reid's intention, but after the more introspective and somber tone of the first half of the book, I felt like the party scenes did not gel with anything else that I had read or learned about the Riva siblings.

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Rating: **** Stars ( I really liked it) Reviewer: Brooke, Public Relations Librarian




AWARDS: LibraryReads Favorites: 2021

GENRE: Book Club Best Bets; Historical Fiction; Multiple Perspectives; Parallel Narratives

THEMES: 24 Hour Stories (A lot can happen in a day! These stories unfold over the course of 24 hours.)

CHARACTER: Complex; Flawed

STORYLINE: Character-Driven; Nonlinear

TONE: High-Drama; Strong Sense of Place

WRITING STYLE: Descriptive; Engaging

TIME PERIOD: 1950s; 1980s

LOCATION: Malibu, California

SUBJECT: Celebrities; Dysfunctional Families; Family Secrets; Fires; Life Change Events; Parties; Self-Discovery; Siblings; Summer; Surfing