TJR did it again. She’s very good at what she does. This book is extremely readable, and I think it might even be my favorite of the three books of hers I’ve read so far. I loved Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones, but this one spoke to me personally in a way those didn’t. Bad dads and dysfunctional families, what are you going to do.
Malibu, 1983. The four Riva siblings throw an end of summer party every year that has become infamous. If you know the location and the date, you are invited. This year, we learn, the party will end with a fire. The Rivas are surfer and model Nina (who is recovering from a public divorce from her tennis pro husband), pro-surfer Jay, photographer Hudson, and little sister Kit. They are the children of superstar singer Mick Riva, who has been the epitome of a deadbeat dad. The book goes back and forth between the twenty-four hours that spans the before, during, and after the party, and flashbacks to their parents meeting, through their childhoods and into present day. The first half of the book is split between the flashbacks and the first twelve hours, 7 AM to 7 PM. The second half is just the party and its aftermath, 7 PM to 7 AM. In the second half, we get POVs from scattered party guests as well, which I loved, because if you’re going to feature a wild party in your book, and your main characters aren’t assholes, you better get me some shenanigans and celebrities behaving badly* elsewhere.
*With buttloads of cocaine! It was the 1980s; it’s only to be expected.
Nina is probably the main character here, but I loved all four Riva siblings. I liked how complex their father was, despite being such an asshole, and I loved seeing the four kids choose to support and love one another no matter what. SPOILERS One of my favorite moments in the book comes at the end when they adopt their probable sibling Casey into the fold, and I don’t have my book with me at the moment, but the narrator says something like, she needed to be loved, so they would love her, and I just melted END SPOILERS. Each sibling did have their own arc, and I thought all of them were done well. I also loved the 80s setting, and the crazy party. The climactic scene involving all four Rivas SPOILERS plus Casey END SPOILERS and their father on the beach was extremely satisfying.
Maybe it’s finally time for me to dive into TJR’s back catalogue, even if none of them are the historical fiction that I think she does so well.