Book Talk: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara BarnardA Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
Published by Simon Pulse on January 9, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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A girl who can’t speak and a boy who can’t hear go on a journey of self-discovery and find support with each other in this gripping, emotionally resonant novel from bestselling author Sara Barnard. Perfect for fans of Morgan Matson and Jandy Nelson.

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life. The condition’s name has always felt ironic to her, because she certainly does not “select” not to speak. In fact, she would give anything to be able to speak as easily and often as everyone around her can. She suffers from crippling anxiety, and uncontrollably, in most situations simply can’t open her mouth to get out the words.

Steffi’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 help him acclimate. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk. As they find ways to communicate, Steffi discovers 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. But as she starts to overcome a lifelong challenge, she’ll soon confront questions about the nature of her own identity and the very essence of what it is to know another person.

Never judge a book by its cover is a maxim that’s both wise and easily ignored. I’ve written a bunch of book cover posts because I judge books with my eyes all the damn time; it often doesn’t work out, but I’ll always do it. I’m part niffler, and my resistance to shiny things is low. A Quiet Kind of Thunder does not have a Christina cover, and I’m actually rather impressed with my past self for downloading the book anyway. Probably it was the comparison to Morgan Matson in the description. Whatever it was, I’m so grateful I gave this book a shot, because holy fuck I loved it. From start to finish, A Quiet Kind of Thunder was both simple and powerful.

Titles are complicated beasts imo. Sometimes they really oversell a book, or they indicate something that you just won’t get inside. Like, there’s a title convention in historical romance of punny covers, but some of the books inside those aren’t particularly funny, which is always a bit of a let down. A Quiet Kind of Thunder is the good kind of title. It’s unique, and, though confusing, it makes you wonder what the eff it means. Once you find out what it means, you realize how perfectly it fits, not just the romance in the book, but the feeling of the book itself.

MC Steffi has selective mutism, which does not mean what I thought it did. There’s a section where she talks about how much it sucks that no one actually gets what selective mutism is, and I felt so bad because the words sound like they mean the exact opposite of what they actually mean. Even just in that small way, I needed this book; it’s one of those reads where I came out of it a bit better armed to be a good and thoughtful person in the world.

Because of Steffi’s combination of selective mutism, anxiety, and shyness, she often cannot talk to people. One of the really powerful elements of this book was the difficulty of having an invisible disability. So many people, even her own mother, thing Steffi’s faking or something because she just does not want to do thing, when she simply can’t. I don’t have anxiety to the degree that she does by any means, but there’s a lot that I found relatable in how people react to Steffi.

With mental health, it can be so hard to really understand what’s going on under the surface, and people end up pushing in really dickish ways out of good (hopefully) intentions. The way people try to encourage Steffi to interact only increases her anxiety. Trying to force her into situations or criticizing her for being too quiet or making fun of her for what she does say or simply being astonished when she does talk; all of that can be crippling to an anxious brain, but it’s so hard for someone whose brain doesn’t work that way to understand that.

At the beginning of the school year, Steffi’s introduced to Rhys, a new student, because he’s deaf and she knows some BSL (British Sign Language). Initially, she’s slightly uncomfortable with the way they’re thrown together like this, but Rhys is a really nice guy so they start to become friends. Steffi finds so much freedom in having this other way to express herself, and that, combined with going on meds, begins to change things for her.

Steffi and Rhys are super cute. Like over-the-top adorable. They communicate frequently through messages, which is my shippy catnip, and they’re both just so perfectly awkward with each other initially. One thing I adore about this book is that they actually get to be a couple for a lot of the book, which almost never happens. They communicate clearly, and they work through any issues that arise in a really healthy way, too, which is amazing. Plus, Barnard does a really great job showing that, while being together does help Steffi in a lot of ways, she hasn’t been saved by Rhys, or vice versa; there are a lot of factors going into Steffi’s growth, and that’s never lost behind the adorable romance.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder reminds me a bit of Becky Albertalli’s first two books, in the way that it remains so thoroughly realistic but has the depth of really taking a picture of real life. There’s no melodrama, just the little dramas of daily life played out so realistically. I had so many feels throughout this book, both happy and sad. This is a book that understands the value of the little moments.

The subplot with Steffi’s best friend, September, was really well done too. With Tem off at a separate school, that opens Steffi up to change because she can no longer rely on Tem; she describes their relationship as a codependent one at one point. As they shift from that codependency to greater independence, their friendship hits a rough patch in which mistakes are made on both sides. The resolution is nuanced and thoughtful.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder highlights the importance of communication in any relationship, and that no one method of communication is inherently superior to the others. Truly, this book is the standout contemporary YA I’ve read this year, and more people need to read this book ASAP.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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