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The Spell Book of Listen Taylor

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,607 ratings  ·  213 reviews
A fairytale, a mystery, a history of hot-air ballooning, and a romance . . . A novel so brilliant, moving, zingy -- and Zingy -- that it could only have come from Jaclyn Moriarty.

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 d
Hardcover, 479 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by Arthur A. Levine Books
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3.55  · 
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 ·  1,607 ratings  ·  213 reviews

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Eva Mitnick
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya, chick-lit
When I first picked up The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty, it seemed to be quite obviously YA, published as it is by the Arthur A. Levine imprint of Scholastic and featuring a 12-year-old girl who finds a book of spells. Easy-peasy!

Well, no. To my initial uneasiness but then vast delight, this book quickly began soaring away from any possibility of pinning it down into a category or genre. Sure, there’s a Junior High School girl named Listen, whose spells may or may not be having
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011, ya
This is just way too bizarre to be truly enjoyed. Not even close to Ashbury books in quality. Have no idea why it is being marketed as YA, because this book is basically about grown people indulging in adultery for no good reason. Adultery is accompanied by mentions of multiple orgasms, sucking toes, and qualities of a good lover.

The only poignant part of the story is Listen's junior high school experience. And the novel is very interesting structurally. Other parts of the novel - the plot, the
Kevin Fanning
Nov 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Meghan Deans' writing
Updated review, 06/2012:

OK I still really, really love this book.

I mean, it's a little twee and cloying in places. As a stylistic choice it didn't turn me off, but I get that this is a book you either immediately love or hate. So many italics and !'s. And the characters all have personalities that, if they aren't identical, are verrry similar.

BUT. This thing clicks together like clockwork. Not just the details falling into place, but the slightly-rewound construction, where you get Friday from
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: friends of clever contemporary fiction about modern relationships
Inspite of Jaclyn Moriarty's funky, insightful and sometimes extremely funny writing style, "The Spell Book of Listen Taylor" is in essence a rather depressing book: It tells the cleverly intertwined stories of three women having each an affair and one 12-years-old girl - the one and only Alissa "Listen" Taylor -, being systematically snubbed/mobbed/cold-shouldered by her five former best friends.

I do not know why, but the helpless combination of adultery and lonely childhood makes me painfully
May 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Adults with a tolerance for confusing writing & extra-marital affairs
Shelves: adult-fiction
Following this story is like trying to follow the deranged rantings of a hopped-up lunatic with ADD. There is no literary flow; it is a listing of random thoughts and actions by characters with names like Listen, Marbie, and Violin (ok, technically Violin is a cat). Bizarre is too tame of a word to describe the descriptions, and the dialogue feels like it came out of Through the Looking Glass.

Of course, none of that is necessarily a bad thing.

After 100 pages or so I started to understand the plo
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This is the story of how I was tricked by this book. Yes, TRICKED!! This is the story:

Four years ago in January 2006, I was at Sydney airport waiting to board the plane to Canada. As you do, I was wasting time in the airport shops, more specifically, one of those little bookshops. One book caught my eye and I instantly fell in love the cover and the zany title and the even zanier, witty blurb. It was I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes by an Australian/Canadian author, Jaclyn Moriarty, whom
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya
I do not like fairy tales. I think they are dumb. They all want to teach me a lesson, and aside from that, when I was a youngin' all the fairy tales had already been Fractured and were parodied more than told, so, how was I supposed to take any of them seriously? It was hard to do that and that is why everyone my age is ironic and pissed off all of the time, the end. I BLAME YOU, ADULTS.

Just kidding. Sort of. Hey, this book! It's a fairy tale that I liked very much. There was a version of this
Nov 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, i-bought-it
Past Me wouldn’t have enjoyed this book and that’s unfortunate. Disparate stories and characters seem to pick up and leave off with no apparent plot, so I wouldn’t have made it very far before abandoning it. But since I’d already read and loved the Ashbury books, I had faith and quickly finished and loved this one too.

The story—don’t worry, there really is one in there—revolves around the Zing Family Secret. There’s junior high student Listen Taylor and her mysterious Spell Book. Marbie Zing is
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fiction. When Listen Taylor and her dad move in with Marbie Zing, her dad's girlfriend, Listen finds a spell book while unpacking her things. There are nine spells in the book, and it's very particular about when she does them.

This is delightful, like Alice Hoffman at her best. It's not quite magical realism, more like reality with the barest hint of magic. The kind of magic that might come from coincidence, not the kind where people suddenly sprout wings. The prose is playful and inventive: He
Dina Roberts
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australian
This is my second time reading the book.

I love it.

Certain aspects of the book remind me so much of my own feelings and experiences—feelings and experiences that sometimes make me feel lonely, because I don't often see them talked about in other books, movies, TV shows, etc.

Huh. That's not how I expected this to go.

I need to explain: this book, in my opinion, is not a bad book. I don't think there's much that's actually wrong with it, as a book, honest. Sometimes, two stars — because that is not very many stars! I know! — means: "SUCKY!" But I do not mean that now.

I almost let myself peer-pressure into rating this three instead. But, it is actually a truly important thing in my heart to rate stuff based on how I liked reading it! And if somebody asked me if I liked
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Every time I read a book from Moriarty, I wonder how she gets away with turns of phrase that are strange and delicious, or plots that fold in on themselves and wind around in a way that is unexpected but somehow works. Somehow!
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 w
May 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
There were so many good things about this book. First, I'll hit the plot: There's an overarching set of circumstances tying everyone in this book together, but the picture is big enough throughout most of it that you cannot see the threads.

Consequently, the big surprise, namely, the Zing Family Secret which gets thrown around all through the beginning of the book, actually stays a secret until the author damn well wants you to see it.

Second, let's look at the characters: They're all real, sympat
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
I judge a book by its cover many a time, which is why I picked up this book. The instantly grabbing image of a woman in heels, looking like she's practically flying into an open, glowing window; the title (who can resist a title such as this one?!); and the predominate color of green all sucked me in immediately. Plus, I'd read other books by Jaclyn Moriarty ("The Year of Secret Assignments") in which she'd employed a writing method where the story was told in a series of handwritten notes betwe ...more
Allegra S
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is a re-write of Moriarty's earlier novel for adults "I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes". I was really excited to read this because I love her stuff and I loved Pancakes, and also because it's fairly unusual for an author to re-write and re-release a book. She writes that she did so in order to change the story for YA-readers. I was interested to piece together the thought process of altering the book.

I did enjoy getting more of Listen's story in this one, however I though the b
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've enjoyed Moriarty's writing for the past few years and was excited as I sat down to read this book that she seems to be sensing the shift in her audience. I enjoy a lot of YA novels and that's how I got into Moriarty, but this most recent book, while still having elements of YA, seems to be trying to reach her mid-twenties audience. Don't get me wrong, I think it works! I was pleasantly surprised to find Moriarty combining stories of characters of many ages and found myself equally entranced ...more
Feb 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people with hearts
I thought about not reviewing this, and truly I have been sick to my stomach over the three stars I am giving it. Kevin and Meg, two opinions I respect more than I can easily express here, five-starred the hell out of this book, and I wanted it to be that for me too. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry. And I just liked it.

This revelation has set me off on a bit of self-doubt, but I remind myself that books read as recently as Dramarama have made me laugh, cry, fall in love with words and charact
Oct 18, 2007 rated it liked it
i have no idea how to review this book. i thoroughly enjoyed it, and yet, other than me, i'm not sure who its audience is.

it's published as young adult. most of the characters are in their 20s and 30s, with the exception of a 12 year old and a 7 year old. the tone is that of a kid's (not y.a.) book, and the content is entirely adult (most of the plots revolve around extra-marital affairs). so, hmmm.

but that aside, it was charming and quirky and contained an odd mystery that kept me turning pages
Jan 08, 2009 marked it as attmepted-to-read
This book was totally confusing. It could be because it's based on a huge secret that no one is allowed to talk about or say. None of the characters were very likable except maybe the title character Listen. The rest are either having affairs or thinking about it FOR NO APPARENT REASON! If you were to read into the thoughts of the characters than I guess you could come up with some lame excuses, but they are just that. Lame excuses. Honestly though, I was getting so confused and irritated with t ...more
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really really really love Jaclyn Moriarty's writing and stories. This is of course no exception but I could not help but wonder if it was at all necessary.

A couple of years ago I read "I have a bed made by buttermilk pancakes" which is so wierd and wonderful. This is supposed to be the young adult version of that book. Seemed to be exactly the same to me. Sure, it was a while ago I read the book so it could be loads of new scenes from Listen's perspective (although I recognized a lot of them)
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015, fantasy
The book showed promise, but didn't deliver for me, in the end. The story structure and timeline were interesting, and the interstitials on inventors was cute. I enjoyed the beautifully written and crafted emotional vignettes (junior high loneliness, 30-something crushes, married-with-kids restlessness, post-breakup's crushing desperation). I enjoyed the Sydney backdrop, and eccentric Zing family. It's just that all those didn't add up to a compelling story for me.

Also, I had to check the desig
Jan 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: y-a-escapism
A layered work that doesn't condescend to its tween/teen readers, this book reminded me of Special Topics in Calamity Physics for a slightly younger audience. Almost entirely plot-driven and following multiple, intersecting lives, it presents life - adult relationships, anyway - without any sugar coating. It isn't a book about fairy tale endings as much as it is a meditation on compromise, denial, security, and family.
Overall, the writing is sometimes morose, but even passages that are less than
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teen, family
Loved this - it had that whimsical quality that I adore about Sarah Addison Allen, but in its own weird, unique way. It is, apparently, marketed as a "teen" book, but it really seemed pretty adult to me - the 12 year old girl, Listen, was only part of the story, and there was plenty about the adults to make it accessible even to people who don't like teen fiction. The writing was really beautiful and unusual, and I loved how of it was woven together - these strange, disparate bits and pieces tha ...more
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is a whirlwind. It doesn't move linearly and it doesn't focus on just one character. There's no logic to it and it can frustrate you beyond belief in its inability to focus on one issue. At the same time, the prose is gorgeous, the characters are weird and the story, what you can glean from the little narratives schmooshed together, is fun.
Jenn Estepp
Nov 24, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: lit-wall
totally quirky. i wish that i had scored a copy of the original adult novel (i have a bed made of buttermilk pancakes). there's no way that this should have been published as a young adult novel. i'm crossing my fingers that the paperback will be released as adult trade paperback, so it can find the right audience. i think moriarty is awesome though.
Aug 24, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nope
Gave the story a try based on a great synopsis. Just could not follow the plot. Also, did not like the characters.
Katherine Kendig
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jaclyn Moriarty's writing is always charming and chipper, which makes it surprising when her characters make truly bad decisions and inflict hurt on each other - through it all, there are still so many exclamation points! I don't think this book was wholly successful as a cohesive story - the throughline of the Zing family secret is uneven, and there's not always a lot of momentum - but as usual with Jaclyn Moriarty, there were moments of brilliant emotional truth and originality and witty absur ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like a dream or a child's story

JM is supposed to be a YA author, but warning: this book is a collection of sophisticated themes disguised as a YA book. True, there's a girl who is unhappy at school, but this book is so much more-- it's about three generations of her entire adopted family. Or maybe three and a half. And, of course, that family's secret.

I couldn't put it down. The writing style is hard to describe. It pulls you in and leaves you with your mouth hanging open, looking around, colle
Tisha (IG: Bluestocking629)
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.75 Stars

I confess, this was a cover buy. I dream of jumping in a window with the cute a-line skirt and an adorable pair of pumps :)

This book was crazy.

It was such an easy read and such a unique style of writing.

Alas I cannot tell you what the book was about because no matter what I say I will spoil it for you.

What I can tell you is this is a very light read. For those of you that actually venture to the beach this will be a fantastic beach read. So bring this and your sunscreen and you are se
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Jaclyn Moriarty is an Australian writer of young adult literature.

She studied English at the University of Sydney, and law at Yale University and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD.

She is the younger sister of Liane Moriarty. She was previously married to Canadian writer Colin McAdam, and has a son, Charlie. She currently lives in Sydney.
“...a choice had to be made when your husband said something unkind. Specifically: be cruel, be strong, or sulk. 'Be cruel' by saying an unkind thing back. 'Be strong' by choosing not to mind. But to do this, you have to use up a piece of your love. You have to shave off enough of the love to forgive. After a while, the piece might grow back, but sometimes not. And if you shave off all the soft curves, you'll be left with a sharp-edged love. 'Sulk' by sulking. Sulking is simply delaying the choice to be cruel or strong.” 26 likes
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