The Spell Book of Listen Taylor
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Pages [hardcover]: 479
Opening Lines: After midnight, the apartment waited, still in the moonlight and the heat. A moth touched its wing to the front porch light, and the apartment cleared its throat sharply.
Memorable Quote: When she got back from taking Cassie to school Fancy knew that she ought to be working on her wilderness romance. She had promised thirty thousand words to her editor by tomorrow, and she had only written eleven. Specifically:
His rhinoceros smelled like a poppadom: sweaty, salty, strange and strong.
Her editor would cut that line.
Favorite Characters: The Canadian next door & Cassie
The Zing family lives in a world of misguided spell books, singular poetry, and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. They use these things to protect the Zing Family Secret one so huge it draws the family to the garden shed for meetings every Friday night.
Into their world comes socially isolated middle grader Listen Taylor, whose father is dating a Zing. Enter Cath Murphy, a young teacher at the elementary school that Cassie Zing attends, suffering from a broken heart. How will the worlds of these two young woman connect? Only the reader can know!
This book definitely caught me by surprise. I picked it up randomly, expecting to enjoy it because I’ve read a few other books by Jaclyn Moriarty and loved them; they each had their own writing style and unique way of drawing me into the story. The Spell Book of Listen Taylor was no different in that respect. It was told through a variety of characters who all had their own specific quirks and personalities that came through in the text.
I’d like to get what I disliked about the book out of the way so I can get to the good things. First off, I have no idea why this novel is marketed as a young adult book. I read somewhere that it was originally published as adult fiction, but that changed somewhere along the way. But most of the main characters-and this book follows many different characters-are adults, around 30. Only one is YA aged-Listen is 12. So much of the writing centers around ‘adult’ subjects-affairs, marriage, commitment-that doesn’t apply to someone my own age, though that doesn’t mean it’s automatically not interesting. Even though I haven’t exactly experienced these things, I could still get into the book and want the best for the characters.
Another thing is that it is long, and needlessly so. Sure, I liked reading all the little things that added together to make an incredible book, but the journey seemed to take longer than necessary. I’ve read books of this length before, and they’re usually packed with action. While I enjoyed the flashbacks, back stories, side plots, and tiny things that connected the characters, something seemed off about it. Perhaps less would be more, even though I ended up liking the excess.
Yes, I did like The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. At some points it was so ridiculously funny I wanted to burst out laughing, even when I was in a public place, where such a thing would be incredibly awkward. This is one of the most twisty, anything-goes, hilarious books I’ve read in a while. It’s not perfect, but I’m alright with that.
The characters were fantastic, from little Cassie to Mrs. Zing. They all had their flaws, some prominently displayed, some hidden. All needed to work out their own problems, and find their own happiness. I keep flipping the pages so I could figure out what would happen next with Listen’s spell book, and what exactly the Zing Family Secret was. I loved coming along for the ride, and I can’t wait to read more by Jaclyn Moriarty. I give The Spell Book of Listen Taylor 4/5 stars.