Have you ever read a book or watched a film that felt so real to you that it was almost like you were inside of it? Maybe "The Truman Show" made you question if this is all real. Or "Almost Famous" had you searching Amazon for a Stillwater album, just to find out that Russel Hammond and Penny Lane are in fact fictional characters. Nevertheless, this is what reading one of Taylor Jenkins Reid's "core four" books is like.
Book lovers have seen the rise of many modern authors that have gained popularity over the years, including, Colleen Hoover, Angie Thomas, and James Patterson. Among these rising authors is Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Reid has written a variety of books, including 'One True Love', 'Evidence of the Affairs' and 'After I Do'. Her most notable books though - or as I like to call them the "Core Four" - include 'The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo', 'Daisy Jones & The Six', 'Malibu Rising' and her most recent work, 'Carrie Soto Is Back'.
Out of all of Reid's books, these four are the most notable, mostly due to the fact that Reid was able to write about a Hollywood actress, a world famous rock band, a pro surfer, and a tennis champion and make them coexist in four different books.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
"You can be sorry about something and not regret it."
Glorified Hollywood actress, Evelyn Hugo has been secretive about her life since she started acting in the 50s, then out of nowhere she picks journalist Monique Grant to conduct an interview about the seven husbands she's had over the course of her career. Nonetheless, an eager Monique jumps at this opportunity and is suddenly thrown into the world of Evelyn Hugo through a series of flashbacks and stories dating back to Evelyn's debut in the 50s all the way to her sudden disappearance in the 80s.
Evelyn Hugo is probably one of Reid's most complex characters. From a young age, Evelyn Hugo has had nothing, but wanted everything, not to mention all the men who took advantage of her body even as a child. As she continues to climb her way up the social ladder, Evelyn sees her seven husbands as opportunities to give her the life she's always imagined, and to escape the tragic reality of the life she already has.
Daisy Jones & The Six
"I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else's muse. I am not the muse. I am the somebody."
Daisy Jones & The Six, told from a journalistic interview perspective, recounts the story of an upcoming band, The Dunne Brothers forming a band with the detached Daisy Jones. The book tells the story of the early days of Daisy Jones & The Six, starting with how they formed, and eventually ending with the sob story of how they broke up.
A California native, Daisy Jones was born into a rich family. She was loved and adored by everyone. She could have everyone and anyone at the snap of her fingers, but she was utterly alone.
Her parents discarded her and couldn't care less what kind of drugs she popped that night. She's seen as a muse that everyone else can parade around like a shiny new trophy, so finally one day she decides to make a name for herself. Billy and Grahamn Dunne were born into a world opposite of Daisy; they had a loving mother who supported their dreams of rock' n-roll. Suddenly, Billy and Daisy are thrown into the world of the entertainment industry and introduced to a way of life they've never known before.
"Because, just as it is in Malibu's nature to burn, so was it in one particular person's nature to set fire and walk away.
Malibu Rising is probably the core fourth book that's the most different. With the other three books telling success stories of fictional celebrities, Malibu Rising digs a little deeper into the most infamous character in the Taylor Jenkins Reid cinematic universe: Mick Riva.
Set in both the past and the present, Malibu Rising tells the story of the famous Riva kids (Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit) and how their annual party ended up in flames. The past tells the story of how the Riva family came to be, starting with Mick and June's enchanting love story, continuing with the origin story of the tragic Riva kids' lives.
The present focuses solely on the Riva kids' party and the moments leading to disaster. Many previous TJR characters are mentioned in this book and even appear at the party, including the main character in Reid's most recent book: Carrie Soto.
Carrie Soto is Back
"I am going to hold their beating hearts in my hand."
First introduced to the title character in Malibu Rising, Carrie Soto is Back follows the life of tennis star, Carrie Soto, as she comes out of retirement to win back her title as the best tennis player ever. Carrie Soto is a book about character development and plot. Unlike most of her other books, this one isn't about a big plot twist that happens at the end.
You are taken on a journey of a woman trying to find herself in a world where she's only been seen as the best, and now that it's falling apart she has to figure out who she is without tennis. Carrie Soto shows a drastic difference in the main character than in Malibu Rising despite taking place within the same time frame. In Malibu Rising, Carrie Soto is seen as the hothead "other woman" who cheated with Nina Riva's husband, and in Carrie Soto, Carrie rarely has any time to associate herself with men. Carrie Soto tells the story of a woman who has been tossed aside by the only world she has ever known. She fights to find herself outside of tennis and the wall she's put up.
My Opinions On The Four Books
In my opinion, these four books are some of the most intriguing books I have read. Taylor Jenkins Reid, especially in these four books, focuses mainly on storytelling. Her writing style seems to mostly be developing the fictional world of her characters and plotlines. Her characters have depth and backstories that make you think long and hard about whether their actions are black or white or morally grey.
Evelyn Hugo was willing to do whatever it took, so she didn't succumb to a life of poverty.
Carrie Soto was determined, strong willed and knew exactly what she wanted and worked hard to get it no matter what obstacles got in her way. The world worked hard to shut her out, but she worked 10x harder to prove her worth.
Nina Riva, despite being born into a rich and luxurious life, is one of the most hardworking and relatable characters in the TJR world. Nina spent her entire life stuck in a box. She was either playing mother, or playing model to support her lifestyle of playing mother. Like so many other teenagers around the world, Nina was forced to mature at a young age and take care of her mother and younger siblings well into her adult life.
And Daisy Jones, no matter how unfortunate life got towards the end, spent her entire career making a name for herself to prove her parents and everybody else who doubted her wrong. Daisy spent her entire life being chased by artificial love, and the one time she felt real love for the first time she was burned.
These women know who they are, and what they've done, but in the end they always do what they have to do.
From first to last...
1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
This one might be a little biased because this was the first TJR book I ever read, but in my opinion, this book was done really well. The complete timeline of this book was well over 20 years, but the pacing to tell a story of Evelyn's entire career along with the seven husbands she had along the way was incredible.
2. Carrie Soto is Back
Again, the pacing in this book is incredible. Over time, TJR tells the story of Carrie Soto's career pre retirement as well as post retirement. This book is all about finding yourself outside of the labels and chains the world has tried to put you in.
You don't have to be just one thing. You don't have to be this or that. You can find a fine line between who you want to be and who the world tries to convince you you are.
3. Malibu Rising
Malibu Rising tends to be TJR fans' least favorite book, but I adore this book simply because of the storytelling. As much as I hate Mick Riva throughout all four books, I loved hearing about his backstory and how his family with June came to be. Rereading the book, I realized that the entire story was a metaphor for fire and how certain people can set fire to your life, causing so much destruction and chaos, and simply walk away, leaving you to either fight the fire or burn.
4. Daisy Jones & The Six
This book tends to be a fan favorite, and as much as I love it, it's my least favorite of the four, mostly because I felt like the characters could have been developed more, to make me empathize and understand them better. Despite this, the book is still phenomenal. Once again, you have these morally gray characters and their fight between what is conventionally acceptable and what is best for their lives.