Review: ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder’ by Sara Barnard

I thought that this was going to a quick, easy read. Something that was cute, but too cliché to be interesting or truly enjoyable. I was expecting flat characters and a boring plotline. Really, it’s a miracle I started reading this book at all.

And boy, am I glad I did. A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard follows the story of Steffi, who is a selective mute. Her world changes when Rhys, a deaf boy, joins her class. The only other student able to communicate in BSL, the teachers thrust the two together and they fall in love.

That is a bad and simplistic summary, but I promise you this: it’s totally wonderful. It’s such an incredible and wonderful book about this range of complex and interesting characters.

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Steffi is young. She’s in high school and she has no idea what the hell she’s doing. And this book reminded me just how much I was like that at her age. Hell, I’m still like that. She can’t always bring herself to speak, she has a complicated family life, a best friend who desperately needs her, and severe social anxiety.

I know, I know. It already sounds like a pretty messy story, right? It’s not. Somehow, Sara Barnard has managed to approach all of these issues without making the story feel cluttered or forced. Which is great. Because guess what? People do have all these issues. And more!

Rhys, regardless of the romance aspect, brings Steffi into a whole new world. She’s forced to consider what her muteness means to her – if she’d feel truly herself without it. She thinks about whether she’s constrained by her muteness – if she’ll ever be able go to university, to fulfil her dreams of travelling or be truly independent.

Even though it’s a fairly standard romantic plot, his character and the dreams that the two conjure together, bring about this wonderful development in Steffi. And that totally makes the cheesy romance worth it.

On the cheesy romance… it did also a nice element of growing up to the story. It felt more real. Steffi is head over heels, you know? It’s sweet. You’re rooting for her. You watch her fall into this relationship she never thought she’d be able to have, and it’s nice. You’re there as she has her first kiss and wonders who to ask about sex, and you laugh because that was once you.

I mean, yes, A Quiet Kind of Thunder falls into, like, a thousand YA traps. Two young people fall in love quickly and passionately and their relationship may as well have been pulled from a film. They say things and do things that would never fly in real life. There’s an argument with the best friend who feels neglected. There’s this mini epic travel adventure that’s great before it all goes wrong…

It happens. Books fit their genre. There’s a formula to it, right? So yeah, there was an element of predictability. There were times when it felt all too cliché and not at all like real life. And I didn’t even care. It was still a nice story. Even if I knew it was going to happen, the actual event was so well written that it didn’t matter.

The disabilities themselves are approached in such a considerate manner. Steffi’s anxiety is written in a way that makes you feel along with her. The inclusion of the dialogue that was signed was really well done. I liked how they talked about the different ways Steffi’s family approached her selective muteness, how she felt about her therapist, and the option of medication.

I liked this book a lot and I’ve already recommended it to a few of my friends. It’s bound to be one of my favourite 2017 releases. This book is sweet, but meaningful. Quick and easy and short, but thought-provoking. There isn’t much more you could ask for.

On a side note, I know a lot of you have chosen to complete one of the many challenges promoting reading diverse characters and authors*, and if you have committed to one of those (or are just interested in generally reading about diverse characters), then I’d definitely suggest picking this book up when you can.

* Interested in doing some of these challenges? Although I’ve opted not to partake myself, I think they’re a lovely idea and a great way to push yourself to read consciously. Check out Diversity Bingo, 2017 Diverse Reads Challenge or Read Diverse 2017.

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