|A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Clinically anxious girl with selective mutism and deaf boy trying to make it in the hearing world - a tricky romance. Sensitive, absorbing love story with more roadblocks than usual.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: January 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Steffi has just started a) sixth form and b) medication for her anxiety. It's all rather tricky, as you can imagine, particularly as Tem, Steffi's best - well, only - friend has enrolled at the local FE college to do an NVQ and so Steffi is all by herself. On the first day, a teacher introduces Steffi to Rhys, a new boy to the school and also just starting sixth form. Rhys is deaf and Steffi knows a little bit of sign language, hence the introduction. Both kids have communication barriers - Rhys can't hear and Steffi, who suffers from selective mutism and severe anxiety, often can't talk.
And they fall into friendship, attraction, and love. But it's a rocky road...
... oh aww. I knew I was going to love this story, and I did. On the surface, it's just telling a life-affirming tale of a romance with more roadblocks than most and we're all suckers for one of those, aren't we? I know I am.
But here's the thing about Sara Barnard. She doesn't write fairy tales. Her characters are fully-rounded and flawed. They're not ciphers and they're not perfect. They mess up and, even by the end of a Barnard story, you know they'll probably mess up in the future, too. Because that's real life.
In A Quiet Kind of Thunder, you'll find a range of themes and issues thoroughly and sensitively explored. Here, we see Steffi's struggle with her mental health. But Barnard doesn't attribute her recovery to being loved by a boy. Sure, it helps. But so does the medication. She doesn't let Steffi off all of her mistakes because she is anxious, either. Some of it just plain daft teenage behaviour. Rhys's struggle is to bridge the contradictions between the hearing and the Deaf world, but his own resentments too. Then there's female friendship, parental engagement, dealing with bereavement. It's all tied together through the motif of successful communication but Barnard creates a real, complicated, often contradictory world that truly mirrors real life.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder is one of those books that makes me realise how right I am to love the world of YA fiction. It's so ready to get out there and grapple with life as it is, not as authors imagine it to be. It's courageous and interesting and vivid. And real.
If you missed it, you should read Beautiful Broken Things also by Barnard and about the intensity of adolescent female friendships, which I absolutely loved.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard at Amazon.com.
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