Spoken by Melanie Weiss
Young Adult fiction
March 2019 Rosehip Publishing
Buy on Amazon
About the Book: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.
Weiss’s debut young adult fiction captures the angst and inner workings of a teenager, Roman Santi, whose life is turned from mansion with a housekeeper in LA to sleeping on grandma’s sofa bed with a statue of the Buddha staring at him. The novel is a lovely, refreshingly sweet and poignant story about a kid not warped by society whose goal is to simply live happily ever after, be a friend, find friends, but also to find the father he’s never known. One of my favorite lines is from Roman’s first day at his new school, when he’s challenged by his mother’s over-the-top appearance as a minor movie star in exile: “Welcome to my world, where I’m happy my hippie grandma is the one taking me to school today.”
Everybody knows about being fifteen. Teens suffer amid the transcending moments. Roman finds his transcending moment when a poem and a girl spark his interest and he joins an after-school poetry club. Weiss, a trained journalist, writes what she knows about Midwestern living and the experiences of the Spoken Word movement in high school. She shares about her inspiration for the novel. During the late nineties, when the character Roman was born, Spoken Word was incorporated into the English classroom in Oak Park. Weiss credits this performance writing as a means for students to share their struggles and triumphs. Her character. Roman, found his niche in his program, although he decides not to share his poetry with his family. “The only way I can be real about what I write is if I know I won’t have to explain myself to them,” Roman says. Participating in Spoken Word allows him to uncork his bottle of stuffed feelings about his place in life, his environment, and his upbringing.
When an opportunity to go to Europe arises from a Spoken Word competition, Roman, with the encouragement of his friend Zuzu, takes a step on a journey to find his father. Roman knows only that his father is a French cruise ship entertainer his mother met the summer they both worked on board. But first he has to earn the right to be part of the poetry team to compete against their London counterparts.
Roman shares his story through first-person present tense narrative, an effective method of bonding the reader to him. Spoken is not one of those in-your-face epic hero journeys. It’s a rare school year peek into contemporary high school freshman year, where the onus to grab life and make meaningful memories in on us. It’s difficult to find comparisons to today’s contemporary YA. Spoken is a finely-tuned story about coming to grips with identity without needing to kill, die, have sex, or do drugs. The cover is an evocative rendering of experiencing not only what you learn, but how you can share it.
About the Author:
I am a member of the Chicago Writers Association and live in Oak Park, IL. As a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, I have worked as a journalist and in marketing. This is my first novel.