By Salma Fareed

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, to no surprise, is set in Malibu and revolves around the lives of the famous Riva family. The book is told in alternating timelines, allowing the readers to gain the necessary information about the families’ history and background. This aspect of the novel additionally allows us as readers to have a deeper understanding of the characters and their past experiences while reading. Spread out throughout the mass of a day, the book revolves around the day of August 27, 1983, and leads up to the annual Riva party, infamously known as a party where all things get out of control.

From the beginning of the novel, Reid prepares us for the climax, but we do not know how the events will play out leading up to it. Reid begins the book by narrating that “it is Malibu’s nature to burn.”  She proceeds to include a brief history of fires that have occurred in Malibu. This small chapter allows the reader to safely assume that a fire will start up during the party, but the big question is how? This chapter, strategically placed at the beginning of the book, keeps the readers hooked and wondering how things will unfold.

We first meet Nina Riva, the oldest child, who is a surfer and model. Nina is arguably the most famous of the children, particularly because of her bikini pictures, which she isn’t too fond of. She is newly separated from her husband who had cheated on her, and she makes the decision to have fun at the party that night, and break out of her usually timid shell. We then get to know her other siblings, Jay, Hudson (Hud for short), and Kit. Jay is also a famous surfer, and Hud is a great photographer. Kit, however, is unrecognizably the best surfer in the family and the youngest child. Jay and Hud both go into the party hoping to break the news of their new girlfriends to their family, and Kit goes in hoping to get her first kiss. Reid created these goals for the characters, and as each member of the family prepares themselves to take a new step, the way Reid plays out this scene is amazing. Each character ends up achieving their goal, but  surprisingly in completely different ways than expected. Finally, we learn about their father, Mick Riva. Long story short, he fulfills the archetype of a man who is never satisfied. Throughout the flashbacks in the story, we learn more about his rise to fame, and the secrets behind it and all of his failed marriages (six marriages!), including June Costas, the Riva children’s mother. He appears at the end of the night, just when we thought things at the party couldn’t get any crazier, and attempts to mend the wounds between him and his children.

Reid has created a story that keeps readers hooked, interested, and unable to put the book down. She allows the readers to truly understand the traumatizing childhood the kids of the Riva family had to go through, allowing us to have a sense of how strong the children are, creating a deeper connection between the readers and the characters through empathy.