A review by adoras
Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Plot- or character-driven? Plot
- Strong character development? Yes
- Loveable characters? It's complicated
- Diverse cast of characters? No
- Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
Like Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones, Malibu Rising deals with the lives of the rich and famous. Mick Riva (who I believe was mentioned briefly in both those novels) fathered four children, who grew up without him and to an extent raised themselves. The oldest three, Nina, Jay, and Hud, found varying degrees of fame and acclaim, and this book covers the span of a day, centered around a huge party that the family hosts on a yearly basis. There are also a lot of flashbacks to Mick and June's story and the siblings' younger years.
For the most part, the multiple POVs just heightened my need to keep reading instead of becoming distracting or annoying. The exception was when we actually get to the party and start to get a ton of briefer, fragmented sections from random partygoers. I understand what this was meant to achieve, but it didn't quite work for me. Also, although I enjoyed the main characters, I felt somewhat removed from all of them. This was done in a purposeful, more successful way in Daisy Jones or even Evelyn Hugo because we're hearing the characters tell us a story. But I didn't feel as immersed here.
My favorite of the siblings was Nina, who has a pleasing people problem. As the oldest sibling, she took care of the other three and in many ways became a mother to them. She was always the responsible one who would offer to do more than was asked and take awful treatment without speaking up. In general, the family dynamic here is fantastic. TJR is so good at making you believe in character bonds, whether they're romantic or platonic or familial, and this is no exception. I really loved the message that family is what you choose, whether or not you're also related to them by blood, and that you have to choose being there for them.
Writing-wise, I've always been aware that I'm being manipulated by TJR, and I can see why that turns people off. Personally, it doesn't bother me, because on me it's usually very successful. This one didn't hit me as hard, but I've always been interested in stories that involve absent parents and adoption/familial bonds that aren't biological. For the most part, I like her writing style--maybe not the most gorgeous prose, but a lot of specific moments that get right to the heart of something. But sometimes, it's just cheesy. For example: That broke his already malfunctioning heart. Come on.
Another thing I enjoy about her work is how they talk about the way that women move in the world. This is heightened by the fact that she writes a lot of historical fiction (and/or books with a lot of flashbacks) and talks a lot about Hollywood and fame, which really heightens issues like misogyny. What I didn't really like were some of the flashbacks to June and Mick's love story (which should probably appear in quotes). It wasn't enjoyable to read a character be treated like shit by a man and be broken by that with nothing else to her character. I get that it happens, and what the ultimate point of everything was, but I think in this case it could've simply been a backstory for the siblings without actual flashbacks, at least from her or Mick's POV. Everything that needed to be accomplished was accomplished better by the present day story.
I feel torn on the ending. I think it was an appropriate and satisfying ending on a character level, but not narratively. It felt like it was building to something that never paid off.
Despite my issues, I really enjoyed this book. I've been picking up and putting down a couple books in the last week, and I knew reading this ARC a few months early would be an almost sure winner. It's only while writing this review that I was able to unpack some of my issues with that. It's a 3.5 rounded up to 4 based on pure enjoyment while reading, but an even 3 thinking about it after the fact.
Graphic: Infidelity, Violence, Toxic relationship, Alcoholism, Death of parent, Domestic abuse, Drug use, and Adult/minor relationship
Moderate: Child abuse, Grief, Misogyny, and Sexual content
Minor: Car accident, Miscarriage , and Abortion