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‘Malibu Rising’: Turn The Page Book Review

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

If you’re on BookTok, you’ve definitely heard of Taylor Jenkins Reid. Or, at least, you’ve heard of her most famous novels: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six. When I saw her name on Turn the Page’s newest book club pick, Malibu Rising, I was excited to see if the author lived up to the hype surrounding her most famous work. Although this was my first read from Reid (no pun intended), I think I got a great idea of her work and why young adults love her writing so much. If you’re trying to decide whether Malibu Rising is for you, keep reading for an in-depth, spoiler-free review.


The story’s plot is pretty straightforward: four siblings, the Rivas, live in Malibu, California after their famous rock star father, Mick Riva, abandoned them and their mother. Every year, the Rivas host a huge party, affectionately known as the “Riva party,” where hundreds of A-list celebrities party, do drugs, and make stupid decisions together until the sun rises. In August 1983, the annual Riva party ends with the eldest daughter Nina’s mansion burnt to the ground. We then see what happened the day before the party, where we learn more about the siblings in the present day, what happened in their childhood, and what led to Mick Riva disappearing. 

The book’s first half is fantastic — it is well-written, beautifully tragic, and paints an authentic picture of childhood trauma despite the characters being celebrities; even though their status is unrelatable for most people, many of us can find ourselves in the family’s story. If the book had ended after the first half, I would have been satisfied.

It was the second half, however, that threw a wrench in the gears. This part of the story centers around the events of the actual party, which is full of side quests from side characters that are irrelevant and too surface-level to feel any connection to. The answer of who burnt down the mansion was less satisfying than it was built up to be. Honestly, it felt like a different person wrote it. It was cheap, unsatisfying, and incredibly rushed.

Plot: 3/5


The entire premise of this book is that it is about a family, and yet all of the family members feel like shallow Mary Sue-type characters. All four siblings embody stereotypes: you have Nina, the oldest surfer/model daughter who has never done anything for herself a day in her life and is the de facto matriarch of the family. Jay and Hud are just kind of there; their only main character trait is that they are conjoined at the hip. And then we have the youngest sister, Kit, who is frustrated with the world because everyone views her as a child and she has no idea what she wants to do with her life. They are meant to be the people everyone wants to be — rich, hot people who have all the time in the world to do nothing but surf and marry rich tennis players. But each character felt lazy and not fully fleshed out. For such a captivating first half, I expected the characters to have more nuance.

Reid seems to love showing and not telling, and we see a lot of it in this book. We can tell that Nina is selfless and hardworking, and yet Reid feels the need to mention it explicitly at least a dozen times. We can tell that Kit feels lost as the youngest daughter, or that Hud is overwhelmed with the events occurring in his personal life. Some of the descriptions are so grandiose and unnecessary. At one point, Reid spends multiple sentences describing how many people are in the bathrooms of Nina’s mansion and what they are doing, rather than providing the main characters with any real depth.

Characters: 2/5


Pacing is the part of a novel that people disagree about most. Some people prefer a slow-burn story with lots of world-building. In contrast, others like when the author immediately dives into the story, and you’re left wondering what exactly is happening until the pieces fit together later on. I am the former; I prefer a story that takes time to build up to its climax because, after learning extensively about who the characters are, the events of the book have a much stronger impact. 

One thing I really loved about Malibu Rising is that a good 200 pages of the book is dedicated to painting a picture for the reader. As stated earlier, we flash between the current day (at the time of the novel, as it is set in the 1980s) and two decades prior, where we see Mick and June’s relationship form and the impact that it has on them and their children. It results in a vivid picture of their world and sets the stage for what is to come. Unfortunately, the second half does fall flat, but not because of the pacing: it’s the lack of depth of the characters and the irrelevance of many of the latter chapters.

Pacing: 4/5


Overall, I didn’t hate this book. I read it in two sittings, which means it was successful in pulling me into the world and left me wanting more. Where it failed was that even after finishing the book, I wanted more, in the way that I was wholly unsatisfied with what I was given. The entire second half of the book felt like it was specifically written to be a TV or movie adaptation, and the characters left much to be desired. If you’re looking for a fun and entertaining read to help you live out your wildest surfer beach fantasies, I recommend giving this a try. But if you’re looking for literally anything else, you can probably find it in another book. 

Overall: 3/5

If you are a University of Connecticut student interested in reading more books, consider joining Turn the Page! We meet every three weeks to discuss a new book every third Tuesday at 7 p.m. We are all done for the semester, but meetings will resume this upcoming semester.

Kaitlin is a junior studying Communication at the University of Connecticut. She enjoys writing about the things that interest her, which is anything from lifestyle and wellness to social issues. When she is not writing for HerCampus, she works as a Public Relations Intern at KikiNetwork, a boutique PR agency based out of Hanover, NH. In her free time, you can find her attempting to cook a new meal, watching early 2000's romcoms, or going to her favorite thrift stores.