Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder - Sara Barnard

A Quite Kind of Thunder
Sara Barnard
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
A girl who can’t speak and a boy who can’t hear go on a journey of self-discovery and find support with each other in this gripping, emotionally resonant novel from bestselling author Sara Barnard. Perfect for fans of Morgan Matson and Jandy Nelson.

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.
I am not even sure if I will be able to properly express how much I adored this book. I had read quite a few positive reviews for A Quiet Kind of Thunder, but I didn't expect it to fill my heart with so much warmth and leave me in such a joyous state.

Characters

I had so much love for both Steffi and Rhys early on in this book.

Rhys was such a sweet little cupcake. He was charming and, for the most part, said all the right things. He wanted to be so independent, that he sometimes let it get him down, when he had to rely on someone else. Seemingly perfect, but slightly flawed.

Steffi was so easy to love and root for. She had something to prove to her parents, her peers, and herself, and I admired her drive. She experienced a lot of setbacks and bumps in the road in her quest to show to her parents that she could navigate her way in the outside world, but even when disappointed, she kept working on herself. I respected that and I also respected that she was doing it for herself.

Friendship
This is what Tem does. She fills my silences. 
Tem and Steffi were life long best friends. Tem was Steffi's champion and her voice, when Steffi had none. With Tem attending a different school, Steffi was on her own. She couldn't rely on Tem. Reading all this, it would make the friendship seem sort of one-sided, but it wasn't at all. I really enjoyed seeing the dynamic between Tem and Steffi shift and change over the course of the story, and I like that Tem was better than I thought when I initially met her.
Through so much confusion and turmoil in our lives, we have always had each other. 
Romance

This two were so sweet and sickeningly adorable. I smiled so much when they were together, that my face hurt. Like, actually hurt. It was worth it, because Barnard did such a magnificent job capturing those feelings of first love. And this was the type of first love I wish everyone could experience, because it was so beautiful. Barnard put tears in my eyes and warmth in my heart.

Sex-positive

Here Steffi found herself with her first boyfriend, her first love, and as much as she loved kissing him, she was curious. I liked that she talked about sex in a positive way with Tem and with Rhys. There was this one scene, where Steffi and Tem are talking about "saving themselves" for their husbands. It was so honest and wonderful.
You were saving it for you. And you decided when, and you said it was nice. That's more than a lot of people get. You still made the choice.
Family focus

We often see terrible parents in YA, so whenever I see some great ones, I must mention them. Steffi, Tem, and Rhys all had pretty fabulous families. All these parents obviously loved their children, even if they were not totally ready for them to spread their wings. There were times I was so grateful that Steffi had her dad and stepmother, because I was so frustrated with her mother, but she did grow on me, and I forgave her for wanting to protect Steffi. But seriously, nothing but love for dad. Mental health was something discussed openly at Steffi's dad's house. He had these lovely, honest talks with her, and really tried to understand Steffi. He was a calm in the storm and his love and respect for Steffi was apparent. I just loved him!

I learned so much!

I had a childhood friend who's parents were deaf, but those are the only deaf people I had ever interacted with and it was when I was young. Therefore, I was quite grateful to get a look into Deaf culture via Rhys. There were so many little things he did, which taught me quite a bit. Instead of getting mad and calling Steffi ableist, Rhys would gently remind her how this or that was for someone who is deaf or he would help her find a way to explain something to him. I really appreciated being educated instead of berated, and I cannot get over what an education I got. I learned a great deal about mutism as well, and I am glad Barnard took the time to share Steffi's mental health history with us.
stefstef: [YOUTUBE - LOVELY RITA - THE BEATLES 1967]
rhysespieces: erm. stef...
stefstef: doesn't the link work?
rhysespieces: sure it does. my ears don't.
Mental Health

As one who lives with mental health issues, I really appreciated Barnard's approach. Therapy and medication were shown in a positive light, and we also saw that it was a slow, long process that Steffi had to work through in order to achieve her goals. No magic cure. No miracle drug. Just lots of baby step, CBT, and a lot of support from family and friends.
They like explanations and recovery stories. They like watching House and knowing a solution is coming. They like to hear that people get uncomplicatedly better. 
I also thought Barnard did an incredible job depicting Steffi's struggle with her anxiety. Her frustration and disappointment when she thought she let her anxiety win was so palpable. My heart ached for her, but what I really latched on to was how people wanted to find a reason for Steffi's mutism. If only she had suffered a traumatic event that could explain it all. But she didn't, and she couldn't. People want mental health issues tied up in neat bows. They want reasons and explanations for why you are the way you are, but sometimes there aren't any.

Overall

This was what I would call a perfect "Sam" book. It had characters I fell in love with, a sweet romance, a strong female friendship, and lots of loving family. File this under "makes me happy", because the smile I wore from the beginning to the end was a clear indication that I loved this book. I can sum up my feelings with a quote from this book:
I nod. My smile might break my face. 



**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.

Bonus:

There was this scene, where Rhys and Steffi dance to this song, and it has been playing on and off in my head since I finished the book. It's been ages since I heard the song, but now I pass my earwig on to you.












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20 comments:

  1. How is it that I've seen this book around but never realized what it was about? I think I'd LOVE this book! I'll have to see if my library has the audiobook.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. This book is so precious! I hope you do get to listen to it.

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  2. Ooh this sounds right up my alley! Adorable characters, great friendships, great family. I'll have to check it out.
    Great review, Sam!

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    1. It took me by surprise and I am so happy it did.

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  3. This story sounds so sweet! I love a present and loving family in a YA book.

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    1. Steffi had two fabulous blended families, and her parents worked together when necessary. It was really healthy.

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  4. How did I miss this one?!? Sounds like it hits on so many wonderful topics and includes things I love. And anything that has Hall & Oates in it is a hit for me :) Great review!

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    1. The Hall and Oats scene was so precious!

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  5. Definitely a lot to love in this one. I like the sound of the characters, strong supportive families, the way Mental Health was handled and the angle of the learning more about deaf culture. I will have to add this to my list. Thanks for the recommendation, Sam.

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    1. This is a wonderful, character driven story, and I loved every second of it.

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  6. It looks like this book hit on a lot of great topics and handled them well. I am glad you got to see a set of good parents I always find that refreshing.

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    1. I am seeing more and more great YA families, and that makes me happy. This dad would definitely make my father's day top ten list.

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  7. WOW! This book sounds interesting and heartbreaking! Thanks for this review, Sam!

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  8. I feel like drawing hearts around this book and your review -- this is the sweetest!

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    1. This book was all sort of sweet! I am so glad they are publishing it here in the US.

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  9. Great review and I agree with all of it! I still need to write my review for this one but I loved everything about it.

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    1. It was such a beautiful tribute to first love! The other things were gravy for me. I was all about the romance.

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  10. This is a book I have seen plenty of folks raving about. It's one I never thought to pick up but your review is making me question why not. I know my local library has a copy available so I might make it one of my select library books of 2018.

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    1. This book has been out for a year on your side of the pond. If your library has it, you should give it a try. It's so precious. I just loved these two and their sweet little romance.

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