by Melanie Weiss
Publication Date: March 12, 2019
Genres: Adult, Young Adult, Coming of Age
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High school freshman Roman Santi has everything — good looks, great friends, a mansion with an infinity swimming pool — except the one thing he really wants. A relationship with his father.
When Roman’s life gets turned upside down, (thanks, Mom!?), he is forced to leave his pampered Hollywood lifestyle and move into his grandparents’ Midwestern home. Sleeping on a lumpy pullout sofa and starting at a new high school is the worst, but Roman’s life starts to look up when his pink-haired friend, Zuzu, and his crush, a classmate named Claire, introduce him to performance poetry through the high school’s Spoken Word Club. While his mom is flying back and forth to L.A., trying to return them to the life they had, Roman becomes part of a diverse group of characters who challenge his rather privileged view of the world. Through Spoken Word, Roman recognizes the hole in his own life he needs to fill and discovers his voice. Spoken Word leads Roman on a journey of new friendships, first love, and finding the dad he never knew.
“Spoken” is an uplifting, funny, and heartfelt coming-of-age story that captures how the honesty of performance poetry binds together students from all different walks of life and forever changes Roman’s life.
I crash onto the brown leather sofa in the family room, even though I’m all sweaty from playing an hour of basketball with Sebastian. I jam a mound of Chunky Monkey into my mouth straight from the container. Those are two things I’m not supposed to do in my house.
Technically, this is Kirk’s house, but my mom and I have lived here for four years, so, basically, it’s my house, too. I’m watching, for the umpteenth time, Catch Me if You Can, which is one of Kirk’s favorite movies. I figure that cancels out the other stuff I shouldn’t be doing.
Rather than more hanging out, I know I need to deal with The Iliad, which Mrs. Lee assigned us last week in English. But if there ever was a quick fix for wanting to read, this 750-page epic Greek poem written a thousand years ago would do the trick. I mean, maybe in college you have to read a book like that. In ninth grade, it’s just a sadistic teacher move. I’ll look at the SparkNotes later on, which is probably what every single kid in the class will be doing.
I commit to the seventy-inch screen and burrow my whole body into the cushy sofa. I love this part, where a teenage con artist, played by Leo DiCaprio, starts to write his name on the chalkboard, introducing himself as the substitute teacher, even though he is really another student in the class.
Just as I’m comfortably comatose, I hear tires screech into the driveway. As I look out the window, Kirk jumps from his silver Mercedes sedan and rushes toward the house. Now this is weird, because Kirk is never home before dinner on a weekday, especially when he’s directing a movie, like he is now, on the Universal backlot.
I slide down lower on the couch, but he doesn’t even glance my way. I watch as Kirk, his face flushed red, charges through the marble foyer and up the stairs toward the master bedroom suite. His hefty frame makes a loud thud on each step as he climbs.
I grab another full spoon of ice cream and return my attention to Leo, but then I hear the yelling.
“This is shameful, Steph!” Kirk screams at my mom.
The bedroom door slams shut. Now it’s just muffled voices as they continue to argue. I drop the full spoon back into the sweating carton, not hungry anymore. This is ratcheted up way past their usual fighting.
I turn the volume up on the TV, hoping that will help me focus on what’s in front of me instead of what’s going on upstairs.
Then I see a few big drips of ice cream on the dark cushion between my legs.
“Shit!” I say to myself as I lean forward to mop up the mess with my T-shirt. My smearing has the wrong result. The white, sticky stain takes on a life of its own.
I don’t need Kirk to see this and be pissed at me today, too. Mom’s got him worked up enough about something.
I shift my thigh so it’s covering the evidence. I’ll deal with it later.
Turning my head to look up at the stairs, I wonder what annoying thing Mom did now. I’m caught off guard as I see her whip down the stairs, calling frantically from the hallway, “Roman, where are you?” Seeing me on the sofa, she rushes into the room. As she grabs my hand, my left thigh sharply separates from the sofa, and she pulls me up to my feet.
“We’re leaving here. We have to go now.”
Mom sniffles big. Her eyes are wet and red. She’s wearing white shorts and a black tank top with the word PINK spelled out in pink rhinestones. Her dark hair is shoved into a messy ponytail. This is not how my mom would ever leave the house. Something bad happened.
“Pack some clothes,” she says softly. “And your toothbrush.”
Dazed, I stand my ground until she grabs my arm and marches me through the sparkling kitchen, with its white-marble countertops and two of everything—two fridges, two ovens, and even two dishwashers. Sunlight pours in through the many windows. I’m hurried past the kitchen island, with its four red-leather barstools. I’ve spent countless hours here, sitting on my butt and eating, doing homework, or just hanging out.
I’m not giving up all this awesomeness, am I?
ABOUT MELANIE WEISS
Melanie Weiss is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and worked as a journalist for newspapers and magazines for 20 years. She began writing her novel, Spoken, shortly after her younger child left for college in 2015 and she became an “empty nester.” She currently manages a scholarship foundation at her local high school that provides scholarship support to more than 60 graduating high school seniors each year. Spoken is her first novel but it won’t be her last.
Dawn Michelle Hardy
Publicist | Literary Agent | Book Consultant
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