Review: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder By Sara Bernard

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A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Bernard was a beautifully cute story. I finished it and just had a huge smile on my face because of the complete levels of utterly precious. It’s not a very plot-complex book and the plot is slow and meandering as it entwines about the lives of two kids with disabilities. But it’s powerful! And so pure and precious my heart felt very full when I finished.

The story is told by Steffi who has selective mutism and meets Rhys, a Deaf boy. They’re thrown together at school due to Steffi’s minimal knowledge of BSL (British Sign Language), but gradually the two start to form a friendship. Steffi has such sever social anxiety that that is an absolute mountain for her to climb. And Rhys, while sweet and lovely, has a deeply rooted terror of not being able to look after himself. The story follows them falling in love and exploring new things and discovering there’s nothing wrong with whispering or quiet thunder.

I enjoyed reading a story that featured disability and mental health! Steffi’s social anxiety and selective mutism were so well written. She’s in therapy and trialling a medication when the book begins and she desperately wants to get to a point where she can handle college. It was really encouraging and empowering to see Steffi building herself up because she wanted to not because she was being shamed into it. There’s no “you must be cured to have a good normal life” messages here and that’s so refreshing and important.

Rhys was equally winning and adorable. And I really loved the fact that the book talked in detail about sign and even explained some of the signs. It showed the reader a glimpse into Deaf Culture and I learned a lot. Plus Rhys was just super sweet all the time and everyone wants a Rhys, okay.

The romance was squishy and sweet. The two of them fit together quite well, although they have a lot of communication breakdowns as Steffi has to get better at BSL and it’s exhausting for Rhys to lip-read all the time. They start off as friends and they’re dorky and sweet to each other. Full cheers for books without instalove that develop relationships slowly and thoughtfully!

I also appreciated the addition of nice and good parents! Steffi’s mother, admittedly, is pretty awful and believes Steffi is faking her condition. But she improves as the story goes on! And I loved Steffi’s dad and step-mum and how, ultimately, Steffi had four parents who cared about her.

The plot is slow and meandering. It’s more of a tale of friendship and coming-of-age and growth, instead of plot checkpoints to get to. I was freaked out during the climax though, because it happens VERY fast and I wished there were more pages.

Ultimately, A Quiet Kind of Thunder is definitely the book you should try if you like (a) cute romances, (b) well researched and lovingly depicted diversity representation with mutism and deafness, and (c) a sweet story that will leave you going “AWWW” and eating chocolate because you have feelings.

US and UK YA

Two new YA novels from OS are First & Then by Emma Mills (US) and Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard (UK). Both books are published by Pan Macmillan.

First & Then has a more original plot and characters, with seventeen-year-old Devon who is a big Jane Austen fan (not that that’s unusual in YA literature or real life) and intriguing minor characters such as Devon’s fourteen-year-old cousin Foster who comes to live with her, pregnant teen Marabelle and a bevy of athletic boys.

Beautiful Broken thingsBeautiful Broken Things has a more conventional storyline, which follows sheltered sixteen-year-old Caddy who goes to an all-girls’ school and this year wants to experience a ‘Significant Life Event’: hopefully finding a boyfriend even though she’s too self-conscious and lacking in confidence to do anything about it.

Caddy’s best friend Rosie goes to another school and the new girl there, Suzanne, seems to be displacing Caddy. Suzanne is very friendly towards Caddy but she clearly has a secret: she’s been abused.

Caddy starts breaking out: getting drunk, high and almost raped and, later, badly injured. It’s a cautionary tale about how the ‘good’ girl can be led astray, even by someone who has real worth. Hopefully teen readers can avoid Caddy’s experiences by reading about them vicariously.

Devon in First & Then feels that she knows author Jane Austen as a person who saw the truth in people and could challenge anyone’s lack of authenticity ‘in the most elegant way imaginable. Jane would tell it like it was’. What Devon doesn’t realise is that she may be acting like a character in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

First & ThenDevon’s teacher is concerned that she’s not putting enough effort into school so that she can get into the college she wants. She follows her best friend, footballer Cas around but he’s interested in other girls.

Joining the school newspaper where the editor sees that Devon’s ‘good at talking to people. There’s something about you that people like’ and developing her relationship with her younger cousin, Foster, become catalysts for change in Devon.

Foster is grieving and Devon champions him when football hero, Ezra, realises that Foster could become a young football star. One more minor character who breaks the mould is another good looking athlete, Jordan, who is a fascinating speaker and seems to genuinely appreciate Devon.

During the course of the novel, Devon realises that she’s been lumping people together, such as the glittery PE girls, rather than recognising them as individuals.

The protagonists in First & Then and Beautiful Broken Things both become more insightful.