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 Goodreads
I absolutely LOVED this book. I was in need of a lovely YA romance, and that’s exactly what this book offered: but with diversity!
Rhys is Deaf*, and Steffi is selective mute. Let’s start with the Deaf aspect, the hearing aspect, and BSL (British Sign Language); parts of the novel that are the basis, I guess. This book has really helped me to learn more and emphasise more with Deaf and HOH people*; I don’t know anyone who is Deaf myself, although I have known people who signed (spoke?) BSL and one person who was half-deaf. I am trying to learn BSL myself, so this book was of course something that I wanted to pick up and read. I found it really interesting and realistic to see how Steffi made mistakes during the course of the book (like sending Rhys a link to a YouTube video), and how Rhys corrected her but got frustrated at the same time. It is the kind of thing I have thought about, especially since I’ve been at university; if there are any Deaf people here, and how do they do things like lectures etc., when I can barely read the board let alone lip read? I am always interested to know more, and this book really helped with that. I found myself copying some of the signs as I read along, as they are written about and the chapter headings are in sign, too.
Rhys and his family: they were the sweetest, kindest people. I also really loved Steffi’s family, although her mum frustrated me a bit (she actually reminded me a little of my mum, who I love very much…!). Something that I really loved about the book as a whole, actually, was the fact that it felt so real and 3D. Genuinely; everything felt very realistic (even their little gallivant. It’s the type of thing my friend and I did ourselves a couple of weeks ago). I myself had a very bad argument with a very good friend, and reading about a similar type of thing was both heartbreaking but at least I knew it was realistic. The argument was even about the same thing, believe it or not, and Barnard totally got it right.
The friendships were brilliant, like between Rhys and Meg. Finally, a YA friendship where a girl and a guy are best friends with no romantic feelings. And I really loved how animals were involved. Steffi, for example, has a German Shephard called Rita, who was adorable. Therapy dogs, and dogs in general, are the best, and I loved how they fitted in so well to the novel.
I like how Sara Barnard didn’t shy away from “proper” teenage things, either. I’m talking about sex here, guys – which I knew was going to happen before I even opened the book. It says on the back “not for younger readers”. Mental health was touched on, too; Steffi’s selective mutism is partly linked to severe anxiety. It was realistic, even hyper-realistic. At some points, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t in the book, I was here because it was so similar to things like panic attacks I’ve had myself.
Barnard is a beautiful, exquisite writer. I felt like I was in the moment with the characters, and I enjoyed every minute of it. A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a book I will always remember (even if I did forget Steffi’s name like ten times before I wrote this review) and reread, and I will definitely be picking up Beautiful Broken Things in the (hopefully, near) future.
*I’d like to say that I am not sure if these terms are correct, although I have of course done research. I am using Deaf with a capital D because I found it on this page, saying that it is for people who have always been Deaf (which Rhys was, at least I believe) and BSL is their first language – however, this page says that people who are “small d” deaf do not associate with Deaf people, but people who are “big D” Deaf do. And the BBC say that “small d” deaf people are people who can regain their hearing through medical procedures and were not born deaf; also people who do not sign because they chose not to, and communicate orally, whereas “big D” Deaf people do associate with the culture, and sign in BSL. HOH means Hard of Hearing, but I’m not sure if it’s acceptable for me to use the term. Rhys is not Hard of Hearing, but Deaf, and I am going to use the “big D” version of the word. However, I am not d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing/Hearing Impaired myself, so please, if I have got anything wrong or you would like to discuss (even if it is a personal preference type of thing), please talk to me in the comments! I am always learning.
TITLE: A Quiet Kind of Thunder
AUTHOR: Sara Barnard
GENRE: YA contemporary
PUBLISHER//YEAR OF PUBLICATION: Macmillan’s Children’s Books // 2017
NUMBER OF PAGES: 320
PERSONAL SOURCE: Bought from Waterstones