Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.
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.
The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.
Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.
And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.
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 standalone historical fiction novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
It's not you, it's me (but also you). I was expecting greatness because TJR managed to make me enjoy novels I thought I wouldn't. This, however, was a big swing and a miss on my part.
This, for me, was like watching a bad soap opera or a train wreck. I really don't care to read about familial and relationship issues, and the was pretty much what the entirety of this story was about.
To properly talk about why this book didn't work for me, I am going to add a spoiler section at the end of the review. If you don't want to be spoiled, you can stop when you see the bolded warning.
Now, let's get into the details.
I picked this up on audio because, frankly, that is the only way to go when it comes to TJR books. The narrator does a great job as usual, but I was expecting for this to have a full cast (to my slight disappointment).
My only issue with the format of the story was that it was not written the way I was expecting it to. It is non-chronological, but I was expecting the story to start at a different point in time. The perspectives also shifted suddenly which I wasn't a big fan of and will get more into that later on.
The synopsis lied to me. I went into this expecting what the synopsis told me, and while I technically got that in some way, it didn't exactly follow what it said. I can't talk about it too much without going into some minor spoilers, so I will just get right into why this story did not work for me (at all).
This story is essentially all about messy familial and romantic relationships...that's it. While that could work for a lot of people, I just don't like reading about that kind of subject matter, especially when it was as dramatic as this way. That is why I said this was soap opera material, because some of the events that unfold in this story are really messy, and it all ends up happening all at once.
What made The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six work for me despite being books that I don't normally like, was largely because the main characters were captivating. While the character in this did successfully feel real, none of them were able to move past just being unlikable or uninteresting.
We follow two sets of characters (initially). In the past, there are June and Mick, and in the present, there are Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit who are their children. I had a hard time reading, or listening, about their lives because it was all so messy. I struggled more with June and Mick's perspectives though because I just could not understand June and the decisions she made. I will talk more about that in the spoiler section though.
The characters got even messier, however, when it suddenly shifts to multiple perspectives near the end of the book due to the number of characters that were now on-page. This did not add anything to the book at all and I do not know why the author thought it was necessary to do so. All it did was disrupt the flow of the story.
I am slightly thankful for the shift in perspectives though because it gave me the only two characters who I thought were interesting - Ricky and Karin (if I am spelling that right).
This was just not the book for me, and that is on me for picking it up. I don't really need to say whether or not I would recommend this since it is rather popular and most people are going to read it anyway. I will caution you though, if you are like me and don't like to read about relationship issues, then this probably isn't for you either.
If you are looking for another family drama, one that I surprisingly did enjoy, I would recommend you pick up Miracle Creek. It is more of a court drama, but this was a rare case where the purposefully unlikable characters did not overshadow the story being told.
WARNING - THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS - PROCEED WITH CAUTION
I mentioned earlier how the synopsis for the story lied to me. The synopsis says: "Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family". That's more or less a lie because, as I have said previously, this book has a dual timeline that takes up half of the book and, therefore, for one, this does not take place in a single night.
Secondly, the big party that I thought would be the focal point and catalyst of the story, was the last thing to happen in this book for some reason. More than half of the book was spent partly following June and Mick in the past, and then the siblings in the present.
I simply did not want that. I wanted a big catalyst that would cause a shift in the lives of the characters, and allow for all their secrets and sins to be revealed. For the catalyst proposed in the synopsis to be the ending of the book made absolutely no sense to me.
Now, let's move on to what I found to be the hardest thing to read about - June and Mick. June thought she found the future she wanted in Mick, an aspiring musician who makes it big (really big). Like how a lot of famous musicians are portrayed though, Mick was unable to resist the temptation of lying with the women who threw themselves at him (to which he called a moment of weakness).
What I struggled with is that June knew that Mick was probably being unfaithful, and when the proof shows up on her doorstep with a child, June ends up taking it in stride. Too tired to fight, she ends up pushing it to the back of her mind and believing that Mick will be a family man now. However, everyone knows that is not going to be the case and he ends up leaving her for another woman.
That is not the end of their story though, as eventually, Mick thinks he came to his senses and crawled back to June, who yet again accepted him back. This is where I drew the line of sympathizing with her character. I don't know what it is like to not be able to let go of someone you love no matter how unhealthy the relationship is, so I couldn't stand by her decision to do exactly that.
I could understand better if it was just the two of them, but for you to allow the father of your children to come back like that will only end up damaging your children.