Published by Macmillan Children's Books
Published on January 12th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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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.
This is Sara Barnard’s second book, but my third Sara Barnard book, and I’ll explain why.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder was released in 2017, a year I found very difficult due to personal reasons, in which I did not read very many books. When I saw it was available for review, I didn’t request it, despite falling head over heels in love with Beautiful Broken Things. A Quiet Kind of Thunder didn’t appeal to me, the concept of a heterosexual teen romance, despite the interesting angle of both main characters being unable to communicate in mainstream ways. I have read a lot of second novels by new authors whose debuts I loved, and found them disappointing, and I assumed Barnard was going to be the same.
HOW WRONG I WAS.
After I read Goodbye, Perfect for the blog tour in early February, I was hooked. I needed to at least check out this book, because if Sara Barnard could write two books that broke my heart and I loved, why would the third be any different?
A Quiet Kind of Thunder is, yes, a heterosexual teen romance, but it’s just plain adorable. It’s sweet, it’s cute, it’s heartbreakingly real. The characters are all adorable and admirable and I want to pack them into my pocket and take them everywhere with me.
Steffi has severe social anxiety and selective mutism, which means she CAN speak, but she doesn’t. Rhys is deaf and communicates using British Sign Language, which Steffi can use a bit of. They are put together by a well-meaning teacher at their school, and their friendship starts to develop.
I’ve read a lot of criticism about ‘insta-love’, and I always thought that when a character sees someone they think is attractive and get that kind of jolt you sometimes get when you see someone you find really attractive, well, even that is NOT insta love, despite what people claim. That’s just attraction. But Steffi doesn’t even experience this jolt (the lightning). She’s definitely NOT in love with him for a good portion of the book. Their friendship develops and you can see her getting interested in him as a friend, spending time together naturally because they can communicate, hanging out, before she thinks she might like him. This is where the title of the book comes into play. Steffi says the love she eventually feels for Rhys is like a quiet kind of thunder as opposed to jolt of lightning. It’s slow, it’s beneath your feet, you barely notice it. It’s one of the best depictions of a developing romance I’ve ever read.
So seriously, fuck everyone who says this book has instalove. I 100% GUARANTEE YOU IT DOES NOT. If you need reminding of what instalove actually is, you can read about it here. I’m actually starting to get really pissed off at reviewers who claim instalove when there isn’t any. It misrepresents the book and it’s unfair on the author.
This isn’t the kind of book where there is a magical cure at the end. It doesn’t start with Steffi unable to speak and then all of a sudden she can. There’s a lot of issues for Steffi to overcome: her parents, divorced and overprotective, don’t want her to go to University because they don’t think she’d be able to cope. Steffi’s BSL isn’t as good as Rhys’, so they have some problems communicating. Steffi’s best friend is an extroverted drama queen and I pretty much felt exhausted every time she was on the page.
My only beef with the book is the aforementioned parents. Steffi’s folks don’t want her to go to University and she does. They don’t think she’d be able to ‘handle’ it. Not necessarily the pressure of a tertiary education, because of her anxiety, but the need to speak to people. Yet they seem to be perfectly OK with Steffi and Rhys going not only to another country but for several nights by themselves, and Steffi’s not even eighteen yet. I found this really inconsistent, because although my strict, overprotective parents didn’t counsel me against going to University, they sure as hell wouldn’t let me go away with a boy by myself. I also was amused by the idea that you need to speak when attending University, because I can recall many times when I went to University and didn’t say a word to anyone. It’s just lectures, self-led assignments, group study and exams, and you don’t really need to talk. So their justification for not wanting Steffi to go doesn’t really ring true to me.
This aside, the book is totally adorable but not in a fluffy way, more in a realistic kind of way, and Rhys was a genuinely nice, sweet guy who got nervous and grumpy, and Steffi dealt with panic attacks that made me cry (that’s three books out for three for Barnard that have made me cry, in case anyone’s keeping count). I loved this book even though I thought I might not, and it has cemented Sara Barnard as a favourite author of mine.