I loved Taylor Jenkins Reid's novel Daisy Jones and the Six, so when I heard she had a new book coming out this summer, there was no question I would get my hands on a copy.
Her latest is called Malibu Rising. It centers around four siblings - Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit - who grew up in Malibu, CA long before it became the celebrity hotbed it is today.
Much like the popular TV show This is Us, Malibu Rising also flashes forward and back sharing details on the siblings in present day, and the back story of their parents in the past. Their father, Mick, was a Frank Sinatra-like crooner, who wowed crowds around the world, but couldn't be faithful to their mother or reliable to them as a father.
To give you a small taste of each of the siblings:
- Nina is the oldest child and the only one with strong memories of Mick before he left. She finds peace in surfing, which ultimately leads to a modeling contract.
- Jay becomes a pro surfer after high school graduation, but learns early on in the book he has a health condition that may end his career.
- Hud has a passion for photography, a skill he honed snapping pictures of his siblings on their surf boards. He's secretly dating Jay's ex-girlfriend.
- Kit is the youngest child and was essentially raised by her siblings. She doesn't like to draw attention to herself. When we meet her, she's struggling to identify and accept her sexual attraction to other women.
The entire story, in present day, takes places over 24 hours. The siblings are preparing for their annual summer party, which has become legendary among the locals. The party serves as a great vehicle for storytelling - who is talking to who, who sneaks off together, who instigates, etc.
As the drugs and alcohol flow, the drama escalates. Quickly.
I found the ending of the book a bit unimaginative. It was so strong all the way until those last 10-15 pages.
Having now read two of Jenkins Reid's books, there were things that stuck out to me about both. She does a beautiful job writing an ensemble of characters. Many books are praised for a singular, complex protagonist, but Jenkins Reid always dreams up multiple lead characters, each one specific and fully formed.
She also writes with a deep sense of place. Both of these stories are set in California (in real life, Jenkins Reid lives in Los Angeles) and the location almost acts as an additional character. In Malibu Rising, the beach, the ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway all hold such deep meaning for the siblings. Being from there is such a vital part of who they are.
Despite my disappointment with the ending, I really enjoyed this book. I read it on the beach, which made me feel like I was on the sand in Malibu.
The book has already been optioned and is being developed as a TV series for Hulu. Liz Tigelaar, the show runner and executive producer for Little Fires Everywhere, is leading the charge on the adaptation. I can't wait to see who they cast as each of the siblings. And as Mick! I was picturing a young Ray Liotta as I was reading.
Now that I've finished this, I've started Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. It's a memoir, and 30 pages in, I'm finding her writing beautiful and moving.
*Image courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.