All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Blog Tour Review: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder by Sara Barnard

on January 13, 2017

quiet-kind-of-thunderA Quiet Kind Of Thunder
Sara Barnard
Macmillan Children’s Books
2017, 320p
Copy courtesy Pan Macmillan AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

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.

From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.

I’m not sure where to start….so many things to say!

This book was one of those reads where I just clicked with it right away. Steffi is an amazing narrator. She’s been selectively mute for most of her life. That’s quite a misleading term, ‘selective mute’ because it’s not something at all that Steffi chooses. But she can talk – there’s nothing physically preventing her from talking. There are just a range of things that make it impossible for her to talk in many situations. From the time she was a small child, Steffi has struggled to speak. Things have gotten better for her at some times and then regressed. In high school now, with her best friend having left, Steffi finds it very difficult. She is introduced to new student Rhys on the flimsiest of reasons. Some time in the past, Steffi learned some sign language as an alternative way to communicate and because Rhys is deaf, they’re thrown together. Steffi’s sign language is pretty rusty but Rhys can also lip read if people are looking at him and speaking clearly.

Steffi isn’t just a selective mute. She also has several other diagnosis including anxiety and this book is one of the best depictions of that I’ve seen. Steffi’s internal thoughts provide such an accurate picture of anxiety, how it can strike at any times, even when everything is going well for her and how she can panic about the smallest of things. When I was reading about Steffi going through one of these attacks, it was almost like experiencing it. I don’t have anxiety….I have things that make me nervous and I have a fear of public speaking that’s so great I feel physically ill just thinking about it, but I can do it. But this definitely helped me understand what life is like for someone who has a condition of anxiety.

Another thing I appreciated about this book was Steffi’s relationship with her family. For a long time I read YA books where parents were absent or just non-existent in the story but this is not the case here. Steffi’s parents are divorced and both her parents have remarried. She spends time at each house and interacts with her parents, her stepmother and stepfather and younger half sister. She wants to go to university when she finishes school but it’s something that she and her parents, in particular her mother, are at odds over. Steffi’s mother doesn’t believe she would cope in such an environment and her mother seems to have ‘markers’ for her, things that if Steffi can accomplish she might be able to do these things. Of her parents it definitely seems that her mother has had the hardest time accepting Steffi’s mutism and Steffi details some of the ways in which her mother tried to get her to speak as a child. All of the parental-offspring interactions felt real, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I loved Rhys as a character. He was a nice guy, a sweet guy. There were plenty of awkward moments between him and Steffi but so many cute ones too. The evolution of their friendship/relationship felt realistic as well and I liked the multiple ways in which they communicated, including by text and an app. Those sorts of ways enabled both of them to be on level footing…..Rhys didn’t need to be lipreading and Steffi didn’t need to be mixing her signing with writing down words she didn’t know how to sign. There’s just something about how easy they were with each other that was very appealing. Being with Rhys made Steffi brave in lots of ways and she really does have a moment where she has to act on her own and I think she learns a lot about herself. The way in which she accepts her issues but also that they are for no one else to fix, that she’s not for anyone to ‘take care of’ is an awesome moment of true acceptance of herself but also belief that she can and will improve. There’s no ‘magic’ solution for Steffi, she knows that. And she needs to make sure that others know it too.

Reading this book was just a really good experience – it encompassed so much. A sweet story or love and friendship, a girl’s struggle with an unexplained condition (and several other diagnosis’) and a complex but realistic family dynamic that contributed to the story. This is the sort of book where you think about the characters long after you’ve finished reading it. The sort of book where you want to recommend it to everyone you know. A book not just for the quiet ones, but for everyone.


Book #216 of 2016


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