A Quiet Kind of Thunder
By: Sara Barnard
Publication: January 9th 2018 by Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!!)
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Goodreads description--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've always wanted to learn ASL. I've always thought it would be a great language to know, and then my friend had a baby born deaf and my desire to learn grew even more. I still haven't taken to learn beyond a few signs/words. Regardless, I was interested in the dynamics between a deaf boy and a mute girl. But I didn't really focus on the part of the description that says Steffi suffers from anxiety which is essentially what causes her inability to speak.
Aside from the actual details about what happened within A Quiet Kind of Thunder the biggest thing I took away from this book revolved around the difference between knowing something intellectually and knowing something from experience. I am convinced that no matter how sympathetic we might try to be to others you just can't understand or empathize until you've been in the exact same or similar situation. I struggle with people like Steffi because I don't have the anxiety issues that she has. Sure I'm not always confident. I don't always have everything figured out. I don't always enjoy speaking up in a crowd or with people that I don't know. I prefer to have an idea in my head of what to expect from any given situation, but I've never (up to this point in my life) been crippled like she has with the what ifs and the negative self talk. In years past, I probably would have read this book and hated Steffi as a character, but I didn't hate her. I felt bad for her and was proud of her when she had a victory. Yet her issues did keep me from connecting to her all the way as well.
The side characters were a mixture of characters that I loved and ones that I only slightly enjoyed. Rhys was awesome. I loved just about everything about him. Rhys's mom--what little part she played--was great. Tem was up and down for me. I loved how she was there for Steffi up front, but I saw some destructive behavior in her that worried me and had me distancing myself a bit emotionally. Steffi's dad was great too. He seemed so compassionate. Her mom on the other hand annoyed me a little because she just didn't seem as supportive of Steffi as she should have been. This is totally ironic because I can actually see myself being similar to her mom and my husband being more similar to Steffi's dad. Husband is definitely the more compassionate out of the two of us. And I tend to be more of the "oh suck it up and deal" type of person.
I enjoyed the honest portrayal of family, friendship, first love, and even first time physical experiences. Sara Barnard wrote these things in such a real way that I never questioned the probability that life could happen this way. Nothing felt beyond the realm of possibility.
I will say that A Quiet Kind of Thunder was not a book that had me feverishly turning pages. I'd read some, be happy and involved, and then have to put it down. And I was just fine with putting it down. I picked it back up with a fondness to return to the story but not with a passion to find out what was going to happen next.
I enjoyed A Quiet Kind of Thunder. The focus was more on Steffi's anxiety than I expected, but I found that this didn't annoy me as much as I think it once might have. I appreciated the amount of thought concerning sympathy vs. empathy that this story made me ponder. In the end, A Quiet Kind of Thunder gets 4 Stars. Have you read A Quiet Kind of Thunder? What did you think? Let me know!