Review Blog

Feb 22 2017

A quiet kind of thunder by Sara Barnard

cover image

Macmillan, 2017. ISBN 9781509810987
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Opposites attract, but sometimes kindred spirits with shared challenges, are more likely bedfellows. In this YA romance, the narrator is an elective mute. Stephi has recently been making progress for her ongoing anxiety, particularly at school, with the help of medication. Enter Rhys, who cannot hear at all. When Mr Stafford, the head of year level, asks Steffi to take the deaf boy under her wing because she does know a little BSL (British Sign Language), Rhys' outgoing nature inspires Steffi to be louder and more present in the world. At first they complement each other. Interestingly, her other relationships evolve too - with her best friend Tem, her parents, her classmates. The one constant is her part-time job working with dogs, where she has always been communicative and content.
Steffi grapples with university aspirations not shared by her parents. After a misadventure with Rhys, she too starts to question whether her world isn't in fact shrinking because of a romance that is too intense, too quickly. A quiet kind of thunder is a thoroughly readable cross between YA Romance and the Bildungsroman genre, but sprinkled with insights about our ubiquitous challenges: grief, broken families, mental health, adolescent sexuality, our affinity with dogs; not to mention the revelational insularity of the deaf community.
The text plays with alternate texts - mostly in the form of chat exchanges and SMS messages. Sara Barnard is one of those writers who knows you and explores her character's feelings and thoughts in ways you never imagined anyone else could understand. Her debut novel, Beautiful broken things, is likewise cathartic for most teenagers, who are by default engaged in self-discovery. Many youtube vloggers have reviewed A quiet kind of thunder. Xina Hailey, for example, melds review and personal recount with artistic flair in her book trailer.
Deborah Robins

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