Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard

img_4600Title: A Quiet Kind of Thunder
Author: Sara Barnard
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication date: 12 January 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 320

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a quiet love story. Despite being seen as ‘the girl who can’t talk’ and ‘the boy who can’t hear’, Steffi, who has social anxiety and selective mutism, and Rhys, who is deaf, find their own way of communicating and slowly build a relationship. The book is about how you can have a great impact without making any noise and how you can say a lot without saying anything at all (cue Ronan Keating!).

I loved the realistic and respectful descriptions of anxiety in A Quiet Kind of Thunder. I think readers with varying levels of anxiety will be able to relate to Steffi’s experience. Reviews from individuals with selective mutism also suggest that it is true to their experience and I imagine the same will be true with any readers who are deaf, as the book appears to be extremely well researched.

I really sympathised with the parents’ worries about what was best for Steffi – would learning BSL help her to communicate, or just allow her to become completely reliant on it? It was great to see the adult characters imagined complexly. They were neither completely good nor completely bad, and they weren’t relegated to near-invisible side characters as parents so often are in YA. After all, parents are a huge part of most teenagers’ lives, whether they like it or not!

Similarly, there is a fantastic friendship between Steffi and Tem. It’s a friendship with flaws, like any other, but one that has just as much weight and importance in the novel as the love interest.

Steffi and Rhys’ romance is very realistic. It has problems, they say things they shouldn’t and they learn from their mistakes. It is a relationship that blossoms from an initial friendship, rather than an immediate in-your-face attraction, and there’s a shyness on both sides when they first get together. I loved the line after their first kiss: ‘He doesn’t taste like strawberries or breath-mints or Prosecco – he tastes like boy. Like Rhys.’ Sara Barnard avoids putting too much of a classic YA shine on everything and the book is so much better for it. Because who on earth has read a line in a YA novel about how ‘he smelt like a fresh, spring day’ and genuinely related to it, unless ‘Fresh Spring Day’ is the new scent brought out by Lynx? In my day, teenage boys definitely did not smell like flowers and freshly cut grass.

We also get some very realistic sex scenes that represent the true awkward, messy and sometimes funny side of sex that is so often ignored in fiction. It’s the kind of sex scene that I think teenagers should be reading about. It’s consensual, realistically nervous, messy and awkward, but fundamentally nice.

The final message of the book is an important one. They are not completely dependent on each other, with one partner needing to ‘save’ the other, but rather have learnt that strong relationships are built on good communication (however that is executed) and that they are there for each other. I loved how down to earth the ending was with the admittance that they might not be together forever, but that they are happy for now. After all, it’s only a handful of teen romances that last for the ‘happily ever after’ and most teenagers know that when they are in a relationship!

I loved this book. I am going to miss reading these characters so much and I will certainly be picking up Sara Barnard’s debut, Beautiful Broken Things. If you liked Holly Bourne’s Am I Normal Yet? definitely check this out, and vice versa!

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