Genres: Young Adult, Romance
Themes: Mental Health, Disability, Coming of Age
Rating: 5 stars
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life. Mixed in with the fact that she has social anxiety and extreme shyness, it’s often been very hard for Steffi to talk to people. However, now she’s determined to go to university and study the course of her dreams but her parents are only happy to let her do so if she can prove that she’s ready- by talking more at school. Of course, Steffi is dreading the new academic year, especially as she hasn’t got her best friend, Tem by her side. But things change when Rhys joins her sixth form. Being deaf, he’s paired up with Steffi who knows a little bit of British Sign Language (BSL)… The two instantly become friends and soon, a sweet love story entails.
From Rhys and Steffi’s first conversation in sign language, I just knew this was going to be a ridiculously sweet book (and it really was, it gave me Fangirl vibes).
This is the first book I’ve read where a main character is deaf, and where the main characters used British Sign Language (BSL) as a means of communication and honestly, I thought it was really brilliant how Barnard incorporated BSL into the book. The narrative would change from BLS to spoken language to text messages but it all flowed really well, and really helped to portray what everyday conversations were like for Steffi and Rhys (as well as with other people). It was enjoyable, insightful and I definitely welcome the representation it gave for the deaf community. Just through the descriptions of different signs, even I’ve picked up on how to sign a couple of things and that’s why representation in literature is important, because it helps to open people’s eyes and minds to all the different groups or communities within our world.
I think Barnard achieved the same thing with Steffi too when it came to her mental health. Steffi’s experience of anxiety was very realistic and through her character you could learn a lot about how much it can impact a person’s life. One of my favourite things was Steffi having little celebrations for every time she managed to do something she’d usually struggle with because of her anxiety. Being able to achieve her goals like going into the common room at school or talking to a stranger successfully, it was so lovely to see her celebrate these achievements but also, it just helps to give a bit of perspective to what someone with social anxiety might experience.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed A Quiet Kind of Thunder! It’s urged me to expand the way I think about communication for example, like how Steffi used BSL when she wasn’t able to speak. It shows me exactly what BSL is; a language, a way to communicate that’s not only exclusive to those who have hearing impairments. This was the take home message for me, which I’m really happy to have learnt. The only thing I’d say, is that I wish the character descriptions were stronger from as early as possible in the book but overall, this was just a very lovely book. I’d highly recommend A Quiet Kind of Thunder because not only will it give you all the feels, but it’s a beautiful book with a diverse group of characters that are realistic and relatable.