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Book Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: Teen & YA/Coming-of-Age/Fiction

Plot:

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.

Opinion:

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a refreshingly different sort of story that centers on two young teens. After stumbling upon this story on NetGalley and liking the description that was provided, I requested it with an excitement to see what I would be getting into. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. This story feels genuine and realistic, and there is an innocence around it that hugs the reader until the end.

For years Steffi has lived with a crippling anxiety that has ruled her life. Her social anxiety has caused her to become a selective mute, and she is only able to speak freely and comfortably around her family and best friend. At school the teachers are understanding to Steffi’s situation, and it allows Steffi to sink into the shadows and become invisible to her peers. But when a new boy enters her school, Steffi realizes that she might not be as invisible as she thought. Rhys transfers to Steffi’s school in the hopes of having a more normal school experience, even though his hearing impairment requires special attention from teachers. Together Rhys and Steffi find common ground by way of communicating through sign language and form an instant friendship. As they grow closer and a relationship begins to form, Steffi notices herself starting to change for the better. A Quiet Kind of Thunder showcases the hardships two teens face as they navigate through school and personal relationships, while also learning how to adapt themselves into a normal way of life.

I found A Quiet Kind of Thunder to be a very unique and endearing YA story. I found Steffi’s situation to be VERY interesting…a selective mute? WHAT?! Steffi explains that she is psychically able to speak, but her social anxiety and fears make it hard for her to form sentences as easily as others do. Due to her having a hard time communicating in front of her peers, she chooses to be mute in public and at school. The reader catches up with Steffi as she starts her first year of school without her best friend by her side, which means she doesn’t have an ally or someone to talk freely to. But when Rhys comes along and her learns that she knows sign language, they form an instant friendship and understanding.

This story really gives the reader an inside look into what it is like for teens with hearing and speaking impairments. For Steffi, her parents explain to her how hard it’s going to be to go to University and to have a life on her own when she is unable to communicate with others. For Rhys, the reader sees that a lot of times he gets lost in translation if he is unable to read lips or if someone isn’t speaking in front of him. It made me much more aware of both conditions and made me realize how much we take for granted on a daily basis.

In regards to the writing and story, I found Steffi to be very mature for her age…but maybe even, too mature? I found her speaking to be very eloquent and beyond her years, which made me feel that it was a bit unbelievable. I also found the characters of Rhys and Steffi to be a little too positive and peppy. Obviously, I am not saying that these two should be depressed and sulky! I just thought that their characters were very fluffed and over-the-top with how perky they were. The manner in which they spoke was very formal, and it makes them feel a bit detached from their emotions. These are teenagers, not adult acquaintances! It felt a bit too “cookie cutter” for me, and it made me not connect with them as much as I would have liked. This was bothering me a lot while reading and is a reason why I didn’t fall 100% in love with the story.

The plot was entertaining, and I liked where the author went with the relationship between Rhys and Steffi. Their conditions put stress on their relationship and the relationships around them, and I thought the author showcased these hardships effectively. It was empowering to watch Steffi grow and begin to succeed. The dynamic of how it affected Rhys was something that any couple could relate to, and I began to really feel for his character in that sense. These conditions can make a person feel very alone and isolated unintentionally, and it was sad to see Rhys begin to feel defeated.

Overall, I enjoyed this read but I didn’t love it. It was even-paced, keeps the readers attention, and is entertaining and informative. In the end, I wanted a little more grit and raw truth from these characters. That being said, I think this might be aimed at a younger audience. Though this won’t be one of those books that I put on my “Have to Read Again” shelf, I still found it to be a sweet story that had a strong amount of innocence.

3-5-stars

 

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8 thoughts on “Book Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

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