Book Review: Malibu Rising

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I have been sooooo excited to write this review because it was one of my most anticipated reads and it lived up to the expectations. Name a better feeling than this one because I cannot. With that said, let’s jump right into it.

Goodreads synopsis:

Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over–especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud–because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own–including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind. 

My review:

Overall rating: 4.5/5
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical fiction, contemporary fiction
Pace: Medium
Read if you loved: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Content warnings: Alcoholism, abandonment, death of a loved one, infidelity

This is my second TJR read and it is safe to say that it will not be my last. I am, for lack of a better word, obsessed. There is something so simple yet powerful about the way she writes and the way she elevates a story and packs a serious emotional punch. It’s stunning and I love it and you could probably stop reading right here and you’d walk away with a fair assessment of my opinion on Malibu Rising. For more gushing (and a few teeny critiques), keep going.

What a beginning to the book – it drew me in right away. Maybe it’s because I lived in LA for 3 years, but the image of Malibu burning is seared into my brain and so I felt present from the first page. The book continues to be just as evocative with TJR’s vivid imagery and complex characterization, all of which culminates in a novel that speaks to your soul. I was protective over the Rivas – Nina in particular – and felt that each individual was so well-realized and explored. The family dynamic is another part of the book that I adored; it’s not only the overall family dynamic, or even Nina’s relationship with each of her siblings, but some way, some how, we get insight into each person’s unique relationship with the other. It’s really quite remarkable when you think about how much storytelling is compressed into 384 pages because the writing does not feel rushed; it is careful and intimate. I am an only child so I cannot comment on relating to what was on the page, but I believed it. Finally, I loved the pacing. Novels that take place over a short period of time can be difficult, but there is a beautiful balance between the present and flashbacks, which help break up the action while sustaining suspense.

My one small criticism is constrained to the second half of the book. Instead of getting family flashbacks, we get an abundance of seemingly random side character backstories. Don’t get me wrong, some of them brought a lot to the table in terms of complementing the chaotic atmosphere of the party and manifesting the rapid deterioration of events that we observe, but there were too many. This is likely highly subjective; I can see some people being very turned off by this while others may love it. For me, it was slightly annoying since I wasn’t interested in all of them, but it did not detract significantly from the book itself. The other thought I had (not quite an issue, but maybe?) was around Nina’s character…she’s kind of a Mary Sue. The woman is perfect in every way possible and her only flaw is putting others first which…like…isn’t really a flaw in the sense that I’m searching for. I found her siblings to be more convincing, and when juxtaposed with Nina, her comparatively one-dimensional nature was pronounced.

That’s all for today! I’m 100% going to be reading much more TJR very soon – starting with Daisy Jones and the Six because that book has been begging my attention for far too long. Have you read any of TJR’s books? Which one is your favorite? Let me know what you think!

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