Taylor Jenkins Reid is back with one of the most anticipated books of the year–Malibu Rising. A time spanning novel that also somehow takes place all in one day? Okay, I’ll bite. For some background: I read and really enjoyed Daisy Jones and the Six, and I have read Maybe in Another Life. I did not read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and I feel like maybe that’s why I wasn’t blown away by Malibu Rising. Overall, I would give Malibu Rising 3.7 stars. It’s moderately interesting, not too long, interesting format, but at the end of the day, there were too many characters, name dropping and celebrity for no real reason, and an anticlimactic ending.
It’s a random day in 1983—and the Riva Party is tonight. The most talked about event, the author would have you believe. Crazy things happen! Rich people kiss! Wow! Who are the Riva’s you ask? The four kids of famous songman (think Frank Sinatra-type) Frank Riva, who notoriously stepped out on his wife, June, and has been married a half-dozen times. His kids–Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit–are a solid family, especially since Nina basically raised them, and she’s the key protagonist here, though we do spend a little third-person omniscient time with what feels like every member of the Malibu population–from waitresses to celebrities to Frank to each Riva to random party guests. Nina’s sad because her own husband recently left her for a tennis pro, but while the “present storyline” focuses on the day of the Riva party—7am-7am–there is also about a third or fourth of the novel that is flashback to Frank and June’s story, how they came to be, how they came apart, etc. But the entire time we know this major Malibu fire is looming in 1983, right? That by the end of the night Malibu is on fire. So while there’s drama, fights over girls, people falling in and out of love, discovering your sexuality, getting arrested, making sandwiches, whatever, there’s also this looming fire.
Spoiler alert: it’s a pretty anticlimactic ending.
I’m not MAD that this novel was so character-focused…I just wish that had been more clear from the set up. And that Reid as an author had had more focus on which character she was developing.Some of the most interesting characters were like fifth-bit characters, only in one or two vignettes. The “celebrity” of this was also…weird. It felt very “but people want to read about rich people! only rich people have drama!” to me. Frank is a songman, right, but Nina’s a swimsuit model, and married a tennis pro, which is where the main money comes from. But the novel’s set up makes it seem like she’s Kylie Jenner or something. It also like…didn’t need to be that way? Medium famous people have parties too? Heck, poor people have parties! Honestly, some of the family/personal drama in this book I’ve seen happen at senior graduation parties in HIGH SCHOOL, no mansion required. You make your characters rich cuz you can, fine, it was just frustrating to see how much time the book spent on name-dropping, celebrity creation, etc, and ultimately creating a cast of characters that acted like it was trying to rival War and Peace.
This book is fine—if you like Reid’s style, I’m sure you’ll like this, I just was expecting something a bit…more.
Because I liked Daisy Jones and the Six…but it didn’t open with some catastrophic fire and end with someone quietly sipping margaritas on the patio….
Malibu Burning is available everywhere books are sold on June 1, 2021
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