THE PLOT: ‘Malibu Rising’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a commercial novel about four siblings whose father is a famous rock star. Set primarily in the 80’s, it centres the eldest daughter – Nina Riva – who is a model and surfer. Despite Nina’s beauty and famous name, her husband has recently left her and she has to throw the annual family party without him. The novel then weaves between the day of the party and Nina’s upbringing in the 60’s. As we learn that Nina isn’t as glamourous as she seems, the party gets out of control and, by the time morning comes, the life she’s been building is in tatters.
RATING: I laughed, I cried, I read it in three sittings – this was a great novel that deserves four and a half stars. At first, I was worried it’d be about privileged rich kids running about LA and I wouldn’t care about the characters. However, the historical backstory in the 50’s and 60’s got me, and I soon fell in love with Nina’s quiet determination and her strength and care for her siblings. My plot summary is very flawed – it was too hard to bring in each siblings’ storylines and the complexities of their parents’ marriage, so you’re going to have to trust me when I tell you to read this book.
GOOD BITS: I wept my heart out. At its core this is a book about a young girl who has to be strong and hold her family together. As a second-generation immigrant(ish), the idea of the eldest girl in the family having to parent her younger siblings resonates deeply with me. Nina’s love for her siblings was so tender and emotive, I couldn’t help but sob while thinking of my elder sister’s love for me. And that’s the best thing about this novel – the characters and their relationships to one another. The book explores the themes of family and duty expressed by characters who you can’t help but love.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: My criticisms are small things about the opening and the ending… In the first fifty pages, there was a lot of focus on clothing which felt amateurish, unnecessary and broke the flow. Although the descriptions of clothing added a tiny bit of context to the characters, they weren’t important and I think they should’ve been removed by an editor. In the last fifty pages, there were a lot of secondary characters. They each contributed to the atmosphere for 80’s LA and the party at the centre of the plot, but I just wanted to get back to the main action.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to fans of Jojo Moyes and Marian Keyes. It’s that kind of fun, pacy, commercial women’s fiction that is the perfect beach read. But I’d also recommend this book if the song ‘Surface Pressure’ from Encanto resonates with you…!
I picked ‘Malibu Rising’ as part of my Love My Read book subscription service for December. They have wonderful monthly book boxes – you can choose from recent releases and backlist titles in different genres – which would make a great treat or gift for a loved one. (Full disclosure – I got my first month #gifted but paid for my December and January boxes).