Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

7th grader Listen Taylor's father is dating Marbie Zing. The Zing family is decidedly eccentric and has weekly meetings to do with the Zing Family Secret (caps intentional).

Listen is dealing with the usual junior high/middle school drama when she discovers a spell book in her room. The book contains a series of spells (seemingly unless spells like "a spell to make someone decide to take a taxi") with strict instructions to do each on a certain day and not skip ahead. Listen is skeptical, but she follows through precisely because of the note on the back of the book, which says "this book will make you fly, will make you strong, will make you glad [...] this book will mend your broken heart."

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor follows Listen--and the Zing family--through a tumultuous school year, through heartbreak, through personal and family drama, and, most significantly, through the revelation of the long hidden Zing Family Secret.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. At first I didn't like it all that much because I wanted it to be more like Moriarty's other novels (Feeling Sorry for Celia, etc). The Spell Book of Listen Taylor spends quite a bit of time on the adult characters, more in fact than on the child characters, which I found a bit jarring. By the end of the novel, however, I quite liked it. I loved how all the threads connected and what the family secret was revealed to be.

One other comment... bream could have been a featured word for the blog.

One character in the book has the line "How is your ocean bream, my love?" floating around in her head. I liked this, nice and somewhat poetic, and who among us hasn't had a phrase stuck in our heads at one point or another. I hadn't heard of the word bream before and was curious what it meant (a kind of wave, a breeze?). A bream, however, is some sort of fish. Once I figured that out I stopped investigating the word. I am decidedly anti-fish.


  1. I read this as the British release, I have a bed of buttermilk pancakes. At that time it was *not* a YA novel, but a quirky adult novel. I know there was some rewriting done to market is as YA and I just do not see that working well (and from the sounds of it, it really didn't work that well lol).

  2. sassymonkey,
    that makes so much sense! This book was so much different than the author's other YA books and it still doesn't read all that much like a YA book.