Title: Malibu Rising (review copy)
Author: Taylor Jenkins-Reid
Genre: Family Dynamics, Drama, Historical Fiction, Popular Culture
Blurb from Goodreads
A lifetime holding it together.
One party will bring it crashing down.
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.
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.
Malibu Rising follows the story of the four Riva siblings, children of music superstar Mick Riva. But despite Mick’s fame and fortune life hasn’t been easy for any of the Riva foursome. Abandoned by their father and living with a doting but alcoholic mother they work hard to make ends meet…. until August 1983 when everything changes.
It’s the day of their annual party. It’s a magical almost mysterious party. No invites get sent out but if you’re in the know you’re in. And it’s always a night to remember
And in many ways Malibu Rising is an enjoyable novel. It’s got a story that will keep you hooked as you’re eager to find out more about all of these characters, as bits of the narrative are teased to the reader and the story gradually unfolds… but yet I feel completely dispassionate about it.
To me it completely lacked emotion. Everything felt flat and glossy; like a picture perfect magazine spread but with nothing to give it that sense of character or uniqueness.
The writing style had this sort of third person omniscient vibe going on and I hated it. It constantly kept me at arm’s length from the main characters meaning that I never cared for them. Instead I found each of the main characters to be woefully underdeveloped. Eldest sister Nina offered nothing to the storyline other than her martyrdom. The brothers Hud and Jay were basically interchangeable so identical was their stereotyping and romantic storylines. And youngest of them all Kit was another literary enterprise in oversimplification as she was reduced to just being the sassy one.
To me the most interesting characters were parents Mick and June, but again they were left as underdeveloped caricatures rather than authentic, living, breathing personalities.
I just found this read to be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes when you’re reading a novel you know exactly that the author is weaving all of these disparate strands and they’re playfully teasing the reader, and then you’ll get to the big climax and boom… pay off and mind is blown…
Yeah that did not happen here.
I was keenly aware that the author was toying with the reader, teasing the possibilities of what was to come…. but it didn’t work. There was too much unnecessary exposition (a lol considering the underdevelopment of the main characters). The pacing was never right; it felt awkward with story reveals feeling purposefully placed within a narrative framework rather than flowing in an organic fashion.
And the climax?
An utterly damp squib. The party of the year went out with a whimper instead of a fiery blaze of heady emotion. Reading this whole novel makes me feel like I just ate a whole tonne of candy floss and now I’ve got a stomach ache from its hollow sickly sweetness.
I think Taylor Jenkins Reid and I will be parting ways after this novel. I read Daisy Jones and the Six and had a similar reaction to the one I had here. And although I did enjoy The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo a little more, I again felt that it lacked the emotional depth I was truly looking for. So it seems that this very much a case of me being the wrong reader for these novels.
Overall not for me.
*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*
Publishing 27th May 2021, Random House U.K. / Cornerstone