The other day my friend and I were browsing through the book shop. Since that morning we were talking about being the “quiet” ones – just normal introvert talk, if you know what I mean. Then all of a sudden my friend said “Look!” and pointed to that pretty pinkish-golden book cover with the white writing: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard. What were the odds of us finding a book with “quiet” in the title? I picked it up and read the blurb. I was immediately intrigued by the storyline and decided to buy it right then and there – as was my friend. I couldn’t wait to start with this book because the plot seemed so different than any other book I’ve read. And no, it’s not “another introvert book” if that’s what you’re thinking. It is a young adult novel about Rhys and Steffi who couldn’t be more different, yet they were so alike: Rhys is deaf and Steffi doesn’t talk. Perfect, you think? Nope, it all just got a whole lot more complicated.
The story was told from Steffi’s POV, a sixteen-year-old girl who was mute as a kid and then grew out of it as she got older. But she still can’t speak. Steffi is very shy and has a strong form of social anxiety that won’t let her speak to fellow students, teachers, shop assistants or people in general. The only people who she can talk to are her family members and her best friend Tem, who was an annoying character throughout the entire story.
Rhys is a new student at Steffi’s school and deaf. Since Steffi’s teachers know that she can speak some basic BSL (British Sign Language), she was paired up with Rhys to help him get around school. Both become friends real quick and start to like each other even more than just friends.
Obviously the story is about first love and all the problems that come with it. But when taking a closer look you can see it is way more than that. With telling Rhys and Steffi’s story, Sara Barnard raises awareness to situations, disabilities and illnesses that people in our society pay too little attention to. A lot of people even ignore it or are oblivious to the facts in general. I love the fact that Barnard took real-life problems and wound them into a young adult fiction novel.
The issues in the book made me think of my surroundings and the people in it. Although I have never met any deaf people, I definitely have met shy people. How many of those have social anxiety? How many of those are judged by the outgoing people? Me as an introvert have heard quite a few comments about “being too quiet” and “coming out of my shell”. Unfortunately, society judges too quickly and labels the quiet people as boring or even worse. It’s the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and it’s easier said than done but we all should try to do better. If someone is shy, let him/her be shy, it’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just the person’s personality.
I usually don’t mention book covers or the book’s overall design in my reviews but this book is definitely an exception. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but the cover of the paperback is beyond pretty, but unfortunately the picture above doesn’t show how much, though. The dark yellowish lines on the cover are actually golden and shimmer in the light. It is super girly but I love it.
For those of you who want to learn some BSL, take a look on the inside of the book cover and the back cover. You will find the BSL “ABC” in the front and the numbers from 0 – 9 in the back.
Steffi is a rather saracastic character and I loved her lists and thoughts that appeared after most of the chapters. They varied from “The ten stupidest things people say to you when you don’t talk” to “Things I worried about on the bus: a snapshot of an anxious brain…”. In a rather humorous way, Steffi’s lists point out how it is to live with social anxiety.
Since the book is not only about talking but rather communicating in general, the characters used different ways to interact with each other. I appreciated the fact that Barnard used different fonts and techniques to distinguish between talking, signing, emailing, texting, writing and thinking. It made the book even more unique.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a real sweet book with an important message for all us oblivious people. It is definitely a must-read but not only for teens, adults can learn a lot, too. 😉
Lots of bookish love,