2 Sentence Summary
“Malibu Rising,” a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, is set in Malibu, California and centers on themes of family, fame, and parenthood. The story follows one memorable night in the life of a family as they each decide what they will keep from the people who raised them and what they will leave behind.
Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes
Actual Book Length: 369
First Published in: 2021
Below is the detailed yet quick summary of the book:
“Malibu Rising” introduces the four Riva siblings on the day of their annual party at Nina’s house in Malibu, California in 1983. Nina is a swimsuit model, Jay is a professional surfer, Hud is a photographer, and Kit is a college junior. The event is a major social gathering that attracts various celebrities. The novel then flashes back in time to recount the history of the Riva family. The siblings’ parents, June and Mick Riva, fall in love and marry, but Mick’s infidelity and pursuit of fame strain their relationship. One day, a woman arrives with a baby and claims that Mick is the father. June and Mick decide to raise the child, Hud, as their own.
After Mick leaves the family permanently, June raises the children alone and struggles financially due to Mick’s failure to pay child support or alimony. To make ends meet, June takes over her parents’ restaurant and becomes an alcoholic, ultimately drowning herself in the bath.
Nina, who is 17 at the time, drops out of school to run the restaurant and fights to keep her siblings out of foster care by obtaining legal guardianship when she turns 18. She becomes a successful model and surfer, achieving fame after one of her photos becomes a popular pin-up. Around this time, the Rivas begin hosting an annual party at Nina’s house. Nina also marries Brandon, a tennis pro.
In 1983, Nina has continued to model and run the restaurant. Brandon, her husband, has recently left her for another woman, reminiscent of her father’s infidelity. Hud has secretly been in a relationship with Ashley, who was previously Jay’s girlfriend, for six months. Jay has started seeing someone new, Lara, but has also discovered that he has a heart condition that will end his surfing career. He has not shared this information with anyone. Kit desires to become a professional surfer, but struggles with self-confidence issues related to her appearance.
As the night of the Riva’s annual party begins, a large number of famous guests arrive. The party quickly becomes chaotic, with cocaine use, sexual activity, and drunken vandalism occurring. Brandon, Nina’s ex-husband, arrives and apologizes for leaving her for Carrie Soto, a famous tennis player. Despite initially considering taking him back, Nina ultimately decides to demand more for herself and tells Brandon to leave after Carrie arrives and confronts him for mistreating her. Brandon drunkenly crashes his car and eventually returns to Carrie.
Jay and Lara’s relationship ends when Lara realizes she doesn’t feel the same way about Jay. Jay discovers that Hud has been secretly dating Ashley, who was previously in a relationship with Jay. This leads to a fight between the two brothers. During the party, a woman named Casey arrives, claiming that she believes Mick Riva is her father. Kit, who is attracted to a man named Ricky, realizes that she is actually a lesbian.
At 2:00 AM, Riva’s estranged father Mick arrives and asks to be a part of the family again. However, Nina, the oldest sibling, stands up for herself and her siblings and tells Mick it is too late for him to be a part of their lives. Afterwards, Kit encourages Nina to fulfill her dream of moving to Madeira, Portugal and living a simple life surfing and eating fish. Nina decides to leave for Madeira, using the chaos of the party as a cover to disappear.
As the party comes to an end, Jay and Hud reconcile and Jay shares with Hud about his heart condition. Hud, determined to be a better father than his own, proposes to Ashley. Kit decides to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional surfer. The night’s events have led to a newfound sense of purpose for each of the siblings.
As Mick prepares to leave at 07:00 AM, he accidentally starts a fire that burns down the Riva house. By the time the fire is extinguished, Nina has already left on a one-way flight to Madeira, Portugal. The fire brings destruction, but also the possibility of renewal and a new beginning for the Riva family.