Malibu Rising – Glamour and Grit

Hello! Continuing my foray into Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novels, I want to share my thoughts on Malibu Rising. Her seventh novel was released after Daisy Jones and the Six became a massive sensation, and she proves she’s more than a one-hit-wonder.

Set on the glittering beaches of Malibu in 1983, this epic tale chronicles one day in the lives of the famous Riva siblings, children of a Jagger-esque icon. All their triumphs and traumas come to a boiling point on the day of one epic summer bash.

Characters

As the oldest sibling, Nina’s first identity is as a caretaker for her younger siblings and alcoholic mother. Her sudden fame and objectification as a swimsuit model give her a new identity as a “bombshell”. Her journey through the novel is to reject the identities projected onto her and find her voice. On page 339 of my paperback edition, Nina begins a magnificent multi-page speech in which she finally acknowledges her anger and hurt, and refuses to accept the bullshit around her. The literal fire at the end of the novel matches the internal fire of this phoenix rising.

Jay realizes his initial identity is too limiting, as health issues start to prevent him from his surfing career. His romantic arc highlights his naïveté and contrasts with his brother’s more complicated and mature romance.

Hud is an illegitimate child. His father is Mick Riva, like his siblings, but his mother gave him to Mick’s wife after an affair. Hud’s confusion about how he fits into his family is engaging and nuanced, and I enjoy his thought-provoking arc. His career is entwined with Jay’s, and his romantic arc with Jay’s ex-girlfriend adds another layer of tension. Reid masterfully creates two brothers who act as two edges of the same sword.

Kit is a blank slate. As the youngest sibling, she feels overlooked and overshadowed by her famous sister and brothers. The day of the party unlocks a key part of Kit’s identity, but the novel isn’t wide enough in scope to fully explore her revelations. I would love to see how Kit grows to understand herself in a sequel or time jump.

Aesthetic

The novel satirizes the “utopian Malibu” that everyone dreams of while appreciating the beauty and terror of the water itself. In a mirror image of each sibling’s identity journey, they wrestle with the gap between how their “idyllic” town is perceived and how they experience life in Malibu.

Pacing

The novel is split into segments of 12 hours, from 7 am – 7 pm and 7 pm – 7 am. The history and repeated traumas of the family are intertwined in the first half, which gives readers some solid emotional gut punches. The second half shows additional perspectives of partygoers and servers, showing how they are all interconnected and defy expectations.

Conclusion

This is a fascinating novel with something for everyone – family drama, epic surfing, a crazy party, and stories of rebirth and connection. I’ll give this 10/10 for characters, aesthetic, and pacing. Recommended for fans of “beach reads’ with extra emotional weight, but not for readers under 17.

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