Sinéad has a habit, over the course of the last few years, of buying me books for Christmas and birthdays based on the fact that she thinks she’d like them. That’s how I got The Testing last Christmas (and, to be fair, she was spot on, I did like it) and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (review forthcoming, the last from the 2014 list) this Christmas. The second book I got off Sinéad this Christmas was this one, The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. It’s a rewrite of Moriarty’s adult book, I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes, aimed at a more YA audience. I love Moriarty’s other YA books – her Brookfield/Ashbury epistolary novels are definitely some of my favourites, so I was going into this with high hopes.
Since Listen Taylor’s dad started dating a Zing, her life has gone from unusual to downright weird. The Zing family live in a world of unexplained projects, coded conversations and start-of-the-art surveillance equipment – all designed to protect the Zing family secret, a secret so huge it draws them all to the garden shed every Friday night. And Listen isn’t invited. Listen herself has things she’d rather keep hidden, including an unconventional spell book that might just be the answer to her problems . . .
This book follows a diverse cast of (seemingly) unconnected characters in a suburb in Australia, including Listen Taylor, her dad, his girlfriend, her sisters and parents, her niece, and her niece’s school teacher. It’s aimed at a YA audience but, to be honest, it doesn’t read a lot like YA. Listen might be the titular character, but she’s not where the plot focuses, really – this book is far more centred on the adult characters.
Moriarty writes with her usual distinctive, quirky style, full of interjections and little notes to self which, while not as good as the truly epistolary Brookfield/Ashbury novels, still add a nice flavour to the book, and her characterisation is zany, at times hilarious, but often wonderfully real, too.
Listen Taylor doesn’t, I think, really fit as a YA book. It still reads like an adult book to me. It would be interesting to read Buttermilk Pancakes, and see how much of a change there was during the editorial process, and what was removed or changed or added to make the audience change.
Besides the slightly odd classifications, though, Listen Taylor is full of Moriarty’s zany, quirky, hugely loveable characters and the human feelings which always resonate so strongly through her writing.
I mentioned at the start of these reviews, when I read a few books by Liane Moriarty, that I preferred Jaclyn of the two sisters, and this book has only reiterated those feelings. A wonderfully zany, genre-defying, magical, heart-warming book which I’ve passed on to Sinéad, and would happily recommend to anyone else, too.