Family & Fire: Malibu Rising Book Review

by Theja Pk
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malibu rising book review

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Last updated on May 15th, 2024

In this book review of Malibu Rising, I will share my thoughts on whether this international bestseller by Taylor Jenkins Reid is worth your time.

Malibu Rising explores family loyalty and how parents can shape a child’s life by NOT being in it. The story centers around the Riva siblings, children of the infamous Mick Riva. Mick was first introduced in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as her third husband.

Who should read this book? Read if you like:

  • family drama
  • surfing
  • authentic characters
  • fast-paced plot
  • clean romance (no spicy scenes)
  • behind the scenes of celebrities

Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid

4.8 out of 5
malibu rising book review by taylor jenkins reid

GENRE: Literary Fiction
PUB DATE: June 1, 2021
TWs: alcoholism, drug use, toxic relationships

A heartwarming tale about the strength of family ties and the life challenges that test them.

4 out of 5
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
Overall Enjoyment
5 out of 5


authentic, heartwarming characters

engaging, insightful writing

fast-paced plot

satisfying ending


excess side characters were hard to keep track of

Table of contents

About the book

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, the family drama that ensues will change their lives 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 for him 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 rising 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.


Riva Siblings

The Riva siblings, listed in order of birth, are:

  • Nina – oldest, model surfer
  • Jay – professional surfer
  • Hudson – photographer
  • Kit – youngest, college student/aspiring surfing pro

Using dual timelines, we get the chance to uncover the hows and whys of each sibling’s upbringing, which I really enjoyed. However, my favorite part was witnessing the Riva siblings’ loyalty towards each other. I found myself rooting so much for their happy ending because of what they’d been through as kids.

The characters are authentic and easy to relate to. As an older sibling, I saw a lot of myself in Nina. I really enjoyed getting to know her and the rest of her family.

Mick Riva

The infamous Mick Riva, who’s only had cameos in previous TJR books, finally gets his backstory in Malibu Rising. Sure, he’s not about to win any ‘Father of the Year’ awards, but I was satisfied with how the author ended his story and felt it was well deserved.

Side Characters

There’s a large supporting cast, especially once the Riva party kicks off. Many of these characters didn’t significantly impact the main storyline, and it was challenging to keep track of everyone.

This took away some of the fun for me, as I was constantly switching between the high-octane drama of the Riva siblings and the more leisurely subplot featuring the numerous party-going celebrities.

Hardcore Taylor Jenkins Reid fans will find many character Easter eggs scattered among the party attendees.


The story unfolds through two timelines: the past, which reveals Mick and June Riva’s love story and introduces the Riva siblings as children, and the present, where we follow the adult Riva siblings over a 24-hour whirlwind that leads up to the legendary Riva party. If you like dual timelines, you’ll enjoy this book.

Alcoholism is one of the themes in the story, particularly in the past timeline. However, reading about how the Riva siblings coped with it and grew closer as a result was one of the most moving aspects of the story for me.

As hinted by the cover, surfing also plays a significant role in the book. It creates a serene, breezy backdrop against the fast-paced narrative that takes place over a single day. I liked that the beachy vibe brings a dash of lightness to the family drama unfolding among the Riva siblings.


If there’s one aspect of a book where Taylor Jenkins Reid has consistently impressed me, it’s her writing. Her style is engaging, insightful, and a delight to read.

Some of my favorite narrative writing from the book:

  • “Consciousness seeped into her slowly, as if breaking the morning to her gently.”
  • “She had big, light brown eyes that held the giddiness that often accompanies hope.”
  • “His face was attractive but forgettable, as if fate had not taken a single risk in composing it.”

Her insightful writing has created so many amazing quotes worth highlighting. If you’re looking for the best quotes from this delightful summer novel, don’t miss out on this collection of Malibu Rising quotes.


Malibu Rising is a heartwarming tale about the strength of family ties and the life challenges that test them. It’s no surprise that this book became a Read with Jenna book club pick.

If you’re in the mood for a captivating escape filled with summer vibes, then I hope this book review of Malibu Rising has convinced you to give it a try.


Is Malibu Rising worth reading?

I would say yes! It’s an emotional family drama that surrounds the theme of sibling loyalty. So if that’s something you like, then definitely give it a shot.

What is the main message of Malibu Rising?

The overarching message from the author surrounding the element of fire is that it isn’t solely destructive; it can also be a force for renewal and fresh starts.

Is Malibu Rising LGBTQ?

The sexuality of one of the Riva siblings is subtly hinted at, but the LGBTQ theme is not as extensively explored as in Evelyn Hugo’s story.

Does Malibu Rising have romance?

There are two romances that we get to dive into: Mick & June’s and Nina & Brandon’s. But there are no explicit sex scenes. The book is more genre fiction than romance.

Want to read more from Taylor Jenkins Reid? Check out more reviews below!

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