Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

”Our family histories are simply stories. They are myths we create about the people who came before us, in order to make sense of ourselves.”

Through alternating timelines between the 1950s to the 1980s, Malibu Rising tells the story of the Riva family – husband and wife Mick and June, and their children; Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit.

Have we all got a cup of tea or a cool beverage at hand? Because… I’m here to chat about this book and I have A LOT of feelings. Buckle up buttercups.

*playlist repeat Malibu by Miley Cyrus and Daddy Issues by Two Feet*

Malibu Rising is officially in my favourite reads ever. My heart raged and twisted, I was spluttering with fury and bubbling uncontrollably with such sorrow… honestly, a lot of bookworms will pick this book up thinking it has a pretty cover and the story’s locale is Malibu – a really cool, hip place – but it’s so much more than that. It exceeded any and all expectations. It was everything. It was an adventure of fun, scandal, an insight into another world… the definition of pure escapism. There’s no greater feeling than one of your most anticipated reads of the book year living up to the hype and expectations, but for it to reach beyond that feat to become an all time favourite is just an exceptional feeling *chef’s kiss* 

On a serious note, Malibu Rising has truly left its mark. I’ll think on and refer to it in future and it will undoubtedly shape me as a reader going forward with respect to how I feel about other books I’ll read, because, I feel I’ve read perfection with this one.

As a starting point, I felt Mick and June’s story was quite similar to Billy and Camilla’s from Daisy Jones & The Six. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, but the similarity was striking. I was a little put off by this at first, but with how captivating the Riva story was, it removed any initial bugbears about that.

Ooooh Mick was such a villain. He had big dreams, and because he felt he had nothing from the start, he felt he had nothing worthy to lose in his desire for success. He was ambitious and his inhibitions knew no bounds. My heart was in my mouth because in one way I understood his character – we all have goals and desires – but it’s clear one can only soar so high until you’re scorched by the Sun. It was dreadful to see how many people he hurt, and the carnage, devastation and suffering he left in his wake. You cannot cause such discord and heartache without a want for cosmic justice. He was such a fickle and careless man, which whether I like him or not, made for a great character narrative especially when it had such impact.

June was likeable, and a representation of a young girl that finds herself essentially stuck in the cycle of: happy home, happy life, happy wife – to rear children, be a sidekick to a husband, and the nurturer of a family. I was desperate for her to break free of the idea that her only goal was to make Mick happy. On one hand June’s actions are courageous, but simultaneously sacrificial. I wanted to be mad at June for being so reliant on the idea of a man, but her story is the story of thousands of women. It is rightly something that may infuriate you, but it will also move you by how gutturally sad and tragic it is. And what’s even sadder, is I think June knew all of this. And that just hurts beyond belief. 

The parallels of mother and daughter were astoundingly done. Essentially, through June and Nina, the question of whether history would repeat itself was posed. This is done through Nina’s marriage to tennis pro Brandon. Brandon’s been raised in a way where he doesn’t cope with losing well. He’s the definition of someone who hasn’t been taught the word no is a legitimate answer. What he wants he’ll get, and he’ll do what he wants. I imagined him like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. He’s self assured, arrogant and silences Nina. I can only describe reading these parts as the biggest threat to my blood pressure I’ve ever read.

So, can you escape your destiny? Fate? Heritage? Legacy? Lineage? Can you escape the supposed predetermined promise one’s heritage brings? Like mother like daughter? That anxiety surrounding that issue is dominant and gallops with every page and discovery. I thoroughly, thoroughly loved the exploration of whether it is possible to escape the legacy of parents and children i.e. will I end up just like my mother? I was imploring Nina to go her own way and cheering for her to find her voice. I really, really related to Nina. She was a vessel for all kids who have had a parent who has been colossal disappointment. Malibu Rising is like a love letter to kids who have daddy issues.

As well as this, Malibu Rising is brimming with subplots with the other Riva children. Jay and Hud are twins in every sense of the word except biology, and as the story unfolds, their bond is tested – is it unbreakable? Will anything come between them? Moreover, they both face new challenges and are dealing with all the feelings that come with change. And lastly, Kit who’s the youngest and struggles to break out from the shadows of her prettier sister and her bolder brothers, is trying to find her way and understand her sexual identity.

The climax of the book! Oh smoke it was brilliant. It was dramatic, heart grippingly good and really emotional. One minute there was fireworks and the next a real need for tissues. There are so many questions raised throughout the story’s timeline, I couldn’t help but devour the book to reach the climax and get the answers, which ultimately felt very rewarding. The ending was so circular; renewal and hopeful amidst such sadness, separation, suspicion, speculation and strain. The promise of something more – better days – to come.

With Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins-Reid has wrote her best novel yet and it will be the must read book of summer, and quite possibly be the book of the year. It’s the champion of champions. I’ll never forget it for as long as I live and I will be rereading it again and again. Malibu Rising tells the tale of what a family is and what a family means, with threads of the experience of being a woman and finding your life path and purpose. It was glamorous, guttural and completely gripping. I cannot recommend it enough, and my profound thanks to Taylor Jenkins-Reid for writing what can only be described as a masterpiece

Buy It Now

Thank you kindly to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.


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