A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
Published by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: January 10 2017
Read: January 10 2017
This quiet book is contained and thoughtful. It avoids over-hyped dramatic moments, and lets Steffi and Rhys have some genuine interaction, some happy, glowing moments, and of course, some miscommunication and vulnerability.
Which is why it’s a great book.
Steffi is a complicated anxious selective mute. She speaks to some people sometimes, but this sixth year (UK setting) of high school is the one for her to demonstrate to her parents (all four of them!) that she can handle ‘normal situations’, proving she can cope with university.
Her best friend Tem has already headed off to college, and Barnard does an excellent job of showing us how the girls keep their closeness, but how there are problems too. This friendship is just as important to the story as the romance with Rhys, and provides much of the humour (as they babysit their 5 year old siblings, Davey and Bella). There’s a lovely, (again, I use the word) quiet bit of challenging gender roles and stereotypes with this pair of cute kids.
Back to Rhys. Barnard handles his deafness sensitively. He is a gentle, romantic boy who wants this relationship to work. The use of social media apps to communicate is very real. Although I am not sure if it’s my ARC, or if it’s just a case of using too many fonts, but I was a bit lost at to why some parts of conversations were in a different font. But that didn’t detract or pull me out of the story too much.
Both Steffi and Rhys have insecurities, and while there are a couple of times where Rhys speaks to Steffi about why he is scared of moving forward, there was a missed opportunity for Steffi to also reveal her panic attacks. Admittedly finally she talks about Clark which took a long time, but I think there could have been a conversation about how debilitating her anxiety can be. The medication Steffi has just starting taking plays an important role—asking readers to think about issues of privacy, honesty and trust. It’s subtle, just like all the best life lessons.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder is full of diverse characters, portrayed compassionately. Their issues don’t overwhelm the narrative, even though it is an unassuming story line. I can easily visualise Steffi and Rhys caught up in their sign language talk, expressive and sincere, as they share their thoughts and show their love, oblivious to ugly stares or judgemental strangers. Barnard makes us believe their story is valid and worthwhile.
That’s because it is.
Recommended to readers who love their love stories gentle and yet strong. The romance level is high, and there is a sex scene (adorable in its awkwardness). The secondary characters are flawed and well developed, with some supportive adults, as well as some who are not. A realistic but happy ending.