The Highs and Lows of Malibu Rising

It’s the end of another Malibu summer. Famous siblings Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit throw a party to celebrate. Over twenty-four hours, the night reveals secrets from the family and changes their lives forever. In Malibu Rising, Taylor Reid Jenkins creates another story about fame and misfortune. In the midst of the present timeline, the book also follows the past perspectives of the Riva family. The revelation of Mick and June Riva’s life gives readers a glance at living life under the limelight.

Jenkins’s novel is a drama with a beach setting, which makes a perfect winter read if you want to experience 1980’s sunny California.  The book follows multiple characters and journeys throughout its 384 pages. As the story progresses, it becomes as cramped and disorienting as its summer party. Having read Reid’s previous books, my expectations were high for this novel. Unfortunately, Malibu Rising misses the mark when it comes to the storyline. Still, the writing style and its characters had a grasp on me. I kept coming back to read it night after night. Here are the highs and lows of New York Time’s best-selling author Taylor Reid Jenkins’s latest:

The Highs: 

Ah, yes! A familiar trope!

At the forefront of most, if not all, of my favorite books is the “found family” trope. Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit are understandably co-dependent on one another because of their family history. Reid writes each sibling’s childhood experience in detail. Readers get to see these children grow up and how the traumas have impacted their lives. I really appreciate how compelling the interactions between each sibling felt. I couldn’t help but to cheer for their well-being and growth throughout the novel. 

Well… That was fast!

Malibu Rising was an enjoyable reading experience simply because it was an easy one. I flew through the entire novel in just a short time. The combination of short chapters, Jenkins’ s writing style, and the dramatic plots kept me on the edge of my seat. Ultimately, these factors contributed to a fast-paced reading experience. 

Who’s cutting onions?

A book that is able to make me emotional, angry, happy, frustrated, and intrigued deserves praise for that alone. Taylor Jenkins Reid has been successful at this twice now. She has a way of writing characters in emotionally compelling ways. As a result, I couldn’t help but become attached to the Riva family. In just 384 pages, members of the Riva family go through troubling moments. In these moments, Reid has the uncanny ability to include heartbreaking one-liners that always seem to hit me right in the feels. As I read how these siblings made the same mistakes as their parents once did, the reading experience became incredibly unnerving. Reid does a wonderful job circling back to the perpetual cycle and idea that we are our parents and behave as such. Breaking out of that can be incredibly hard according to this novel. But it was easy to cheer for this family to break out of those molds and learn from their parents’ tumultuous love life.

The Lows:

What year is it?

Had Reid never explicitly written in her novel that the book was set in the 1980s, I simply would not have known. The atmosphere and descriptions felt vague. Only “throw away” lines reminded me what year it was before a chapter (ex.: “In the spring of 1978”). Beyond that, the book could have easily taken place during another year. This could have made the reading experience even better- especially as someone who enjoys reading about different times in history. 

It’s a bit crowded in here!

Having multiple characters in a story is always a risk and sadly in this novel, this wasn’t a risk worth taking. Reid should have settled for her main group of characters. The audience would have gained much more from the story reading about the Riva siblings’ personal lives and issues rather than spending two to three pages on a random character that has no point and has no relevance to the main story being told in the first place. There were so many different characters and names, it became as overwhelming as a Where’s Waldo picture. 


Ultimately, the ending of a novel can either break or make it for me as a reader. Unfortunately, Malibu Rising left a sour taste in my mouth. Packed with wasted potential, the novel focused on too many unnecessary characters. I was hoping once we got to the end, these stories and plots would all somehow connect and overlap. They didn’t. If these other attendees at the party weren’t going to add anything to the plot of our story, why did I need to know about how they became famous, who they married, and why their marriage was in shambles? The spotlight should have remained on our four siblings. All the other distractions should have been eliminated. Malibu Rising promised to be a great tale about family and lavish lifestyles with high stakes. Unfortunately, disappointment is all that awaits at the finish line. 

This book falls at a 3.5/5 rating for me mostly because I’ve held Taylor Jenkins Reid at a nearly impossible standard. Its characters won me over. The juicy drama of a rich family with the absent and dysfunctional father figure definitely kept me coming back for more. I recommend reading it, but if you were to pick only one Reid novel to read, this definitely doesn’t come before Evelyn Hugo or Daisy Jones.  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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