Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor

By Jaclyn Moriarty.

This book is not at all what I was expecting from the title and the cover. Yes, there is a spell book, but it seems very much an authorial trick to hold the narrative together—otherwise you might find yourself asking (at least for the first 150 pages) what all these people have to do with each other.

The Zing family has a secret. This is not an ordinary secret, but a Secret that requires them to meet in the garden shed every Friday night. What is it? That you don't find out until nearly half way through.

In the meantime, we are treated to the lives of seventh grader Listen Taylor, second grade teacher Cath Murphy, adult Zing daughters Fancy and Marbie, second grader Cassie Zing, and seemingly unconnected interludes about balloonists. I was more or less bored for the first 150 pages or so.

Affairs. The book is shelved in YA (at least in the library here), but there are so many (uninteresting) affairs going on that it made me feel like this was really an adult book that somehow got accidentally sold to a YA publisher.

The book is funny at points, but the spots of humor fall flat until the pace picks up partway through. Even then, much of the humor is dark: "My wife can't make it. Two of her clients called to say they had made a suicide pact and couldn't figure out the catch on the gun."

The narrative organization is also confusing, with the same period of time often being reiterated from different viewpoints with no indication that time hasn't passed until we come to one of Listen's spells, which apparently took effect before she actually cast it.

That's not to say the book wasn't memorable: the Secret, when we finally get to it, is a good one, and ties together many of the previous events. But the book as a whole wasn't really my cup of tea.

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