The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn MoriartySource: Bought from Oxfam Books.
Since Listen Taylor's dad started dating a Zing, her life has gone from unusual to downright weird. The delightfully mad Zing family live in a world of unexplained projects, coded conversations and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment - all to protect the Zing family secret, one so huge it draws them all, including Listen's dad, to the garden shed for meetings every Friday night. And Listen isn't invited. But Listen also has things she'd rather keep hidden - a secret too heartbreaking to share and an unconventional spell book (with a spell to make a vacuum cleaner break and another to make someone eat cake? ) that might be the answer to her problems.
Before I jump into my review, I think it's important to give a little history about the background of this book. Upon researching it a little further, I discovered that The Spell Book of Listen Taylor is a young adult adaption of the book I Have a Bed Made of Butetrmilk Pancakes - an adult book written by Jaclyn Moriarty. I haven't read the original so I can't compare the two, but I think it's interesting and is something that definitely explains some of the things I thought whilst reading the book. You can find out more about the differences between the two books here.
This book tells the story of several characters - Listen and her dad, her dad's new girlfriend Marbie, Marbie's sister Fancy and her daughter Cassie, and Cassie's schoolteacher Cath. Listen's story focusses on her starting year 7 and the ups and downs that brings. On the way she discovers a mysterious spell book which she turns to throughout the year.
I really liked Listen's story. I think we can all relate to starting secondary school and the huge shift that brings. I found myself wishing the story was more about her, probably because it was what I was expecting with her name being in the title, but also because she was a really compelling character. She's definitely the most sane character within the book. One of the problems with the older characters in the story was that there were just too many eccentric characters. I'm all for strange and wacky, but I found myself slightly distracted by just how barmy some of the adults were!
The first half of the book dragged a little for me. I love Moriarty's quirky writing style, but as the book went on I just kept waiting for the point where everything would fall into place. It seemed all these characters had random stories that didn't really fit together and at times I'd just get plain confused.
However, the second half totally saved the day. Things finally started coming together and my faith in Moriarty's story-telling was restored! The way the mysteries unfoled was very reminiscent of Becoming Bindy MacKenzie (the third book in Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield series) and for the last 100 pages or so I couldn't put it down. I didn't see any of the twists coming and I was really excited when stuff started to be revealed.
I think this book could have done with being 100 or so pages shorter, and I was disappointed that some of the background characters were forgotten towards the end. I really liked the conclusion to Listen's, story though, and I finished the book with a smile on my face.
I didn't quite live up to the Ashbury/Brookfield series to me, but it was still well worth a read.
What to read next: Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty, book one in the Ashbury/Brookfield series.
Books like this: Becoming Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty.