Title: A Quiet Kind of Thunder (2017)
Author: Sara Barnard
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 320 pages
Release Date: January 12, 2017
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life — she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him.
To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder is my first book by Sara Barnard and I really, really enjoyed it. This is the story of Steffi, who has selective mutism andcan only speak when she’s really, really comfortable with the people around her. On her first day as a sixth former, she meets Rhys, a half-Guyanese deaf boy who is new to her school. The two become fast friends, communicating using text messages, the British Sign Language (BSL), lip-reading, and also in writing.
I found it surprisingly easy to love Steffi. She may be hard on herself but she’s fun, occasionally snarky, and she never hesitates to poke fun at herself. Growth doesn’t come easy to her and sometimes her anxiety wins, but she doesn’t give up and never lets it defeat her. I rooted for her the whole time, and I found it really inspiring that she’s always looking forward, always eager to improve herself.
You know how you feel thunder? Like that low rumbling, deep in your stomach and your chest? So I get the little jolts, like when we’re kissing, but then for a while after, while I’m with him, I get that happy, lasting kind of feeling. Like thunder.
Rhys, our male lead, is also just as easy to love. As far as I can remember, this is the first time I read a YA contemporary book that sends me right back to that giddy “oh my god he’s so adorable and perfect” first crush feeling. He and Steffi are so cute together, and I really enjoyed reading about their interactions, both before and after they became a couple. They communicate, they let themselves be their own person, they trust and respect one another… I’ve never once doubted that they are good for each other.
There’s something very real in the way Barnard explores disability and mental health in A Quiet Kind of Thunder. Neither of these things are magically resolved the moment Rhys and Steffi got together (thank god), but rather they’re explored even more fully, from different angles. Despite my natural cynicism, I’m actually a big believer that romantic relationships can sometimes be the bridge to self-understanding, and Steffi and Rhys are the embodiment of that. Their romance catalyses their coming-of-age, but it doesn’t overwhelm or overtake it.
“You don’t have to depend on me,” I say. “And I don’t have to depend on you. But we can still lean on each other when we need to. That’s still OK.”
Another thing that I really enjoyed is the different kinds of family interactions going on in this novel. Both Rhys and Steffi came from relatively happy families, but that too comes with its own brand of challenges. Supportive as their parents might be, Rhys and Steffi struggle with defining who they are with and without their deafness/mutism respectively and gaining independence, especially as they both mature into adults. This part I think was very well-done and incredibly realistic.
There’s actually not a lot that I didn’t like about A Quiet Kind of Thunder. If perhaps there was one thing I think could be improved, it was that the ending felt abrupt to me, and I’d have liked a bit more of a resolution. To be honest, though, I’m at a point where I’m kind of nitpicking, because this book is pretty damn good and I’m so glad I’ve the chance to read it.
* I received an ARC of A QUIET KIND OF THUNDER from Pan Macmillan. Quotes might differ from the final publication.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder Blog Tour
This post is a stop on Pan Macmillan’s A Quiet Kind of Thunder blog tour. Interested in purchasing a copy? 💖