Book review: Malibu Rising

For the last month of the school year, I figured I would review one of my absolute favorite summer reads. This book, of course, is “Malibu Rising” by my all time favorite author: Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Everyone who knows me will confirm that I talk about her endlessly, but I can’t help myself, her work is just that good. And “Malibu Rising” is no exception. Taking place in August of 1983, the four Riva siblings have thrown an end-of-summer party every year since they were highschoolers, and this year is no different. However, as the siblings grow up and are learning more about themselves, secrets start to sprout, and they all want out.
These siblings are Nina, the world-famous supermodel who wishes for another life, twins Jay and Hud – the championship surfer and the photographer – who are both keeping things from each other that will drastically change their close relationship, and young Kit, who is afraid of learning more about herself that could change her whole perspective on life.
One of the things I love about this book is how most of it takes place in one day, from 6am until 7am the next morning. However, there is also another perspective that takes place back in 1956, following the siblings’ parents, June and Mick Riva. Now, if you’ve read any of Reid’s books, you know who Mick Riva is. The famous singer has a role in nearly every single book by Reid, and throughout each one he tends to have a bad reputation.
This becomes even more clear throughout “Malibu Rising,” as it follows his and June’s relationship: marriage, children, and most of all hardships. But even though this character is so awful, Reid still writes about their relationship with so much empathy that you can’t help but love them together, which is exactly why their relationship is so heartbreaking.
One of my favorite quotes in “Malibu Rising” is “The story of June and Mick Riva seemed like a tragedy to their oldest child, Nina. It felt like a comedy or errors to their first son Jay. It was an origin story for their second son, Hud. And a mystery to the baby of the family, Kit. To Mick himself it was just a chapter of his memoir. But to June, it was, always and forever, a romance.” If this quote doesn’t explain the complexity of the relationship between June and Mick, which leads to the family dynamic between all of them, then I don’t know what will.
Though it is heartbreaking through and through, the family aspect is also beautiful. The way the siblings grew up together and had to take care of each other is unlike any other family I’ve read before. The way Reid writes about family and the struggle of following in your ancestors’ footsteps—which is something all the Riva siblings struggle with—is beautiful. “Malibu Rising” has endless quotes I would love to add to this review, but you’ll just need to read the book since they won’t all fit.
The best thing about this aspect of the book is the change between the wording from the beginning of the book to the end of it. The character development is clear, and Reid does a great job writing it. For example, at the beginning of “Malibu Rising,” Reid wrote, “Maybe our parents’ lives are imprinted within us, maybe the only fate there is is the temptation of reliving their mistakes. Maybe, try as we might, we will never be able to outrun the blood that runs through our veins.” All the siblings have struggled with following in their fathers footsteps, afraid of what he’s done and if they will get the gene.
Though the quote follows through the entire book, as the siblings grow and get through the character development, Reid switches it to “Family is found…whether it be blood or circumstance or choice, what binds us does not matter. All that matters is that we are bound.” The main theme of this book is figuring out who each of the siblings are, and that begins with the siblings realizing that family doesn’t define you as a person.
Another aspect I loved about this book were the characters. Again, I have a love/hate relationship with June and Mick Riva’s relationship, but I still couldn’t help myself from loving and feeling for the characters, whether good or bad. But there are some characters that tend to shine through, and for me, those characters are Nina and Kit Riva. While I like all the siblings, the two girls really stood out to me. They are both complex characters (which I always enjoy) but for very different reasons. Nina, being the oldest, had to take care of her siblings and within that job, struggles through infinite hardships, and it simply makes your heart ache for her. She has gone through so much, and you are rooting for her throughout the book to just have some peace for the first time in her life.
Kit, on the other hand, is very different, but one of my favorite characters ever. I love the way she talks and holds herself, and the way she thinks. For me, I identify with her a lot because of all those aspects. You want to feel for her because, while being the youngest sibling, she is often downplayed by her brothers and sister, just because they still see her as a little kid. But even with these obstacles, once again, the character development shines through, and there’s nothing better than seeing these characters grow.
All in all, I give “Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid 5/5 Spartan heads, because I think it is one of Reid’s strongest books. If you are looking for a summer vacation read, definitely pick this one up because you will not regret it!