Sunday, 15 January 2017

'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' by Sara Barnard

Image result for a quiet kind of thunder sara barnard
*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children's Books, for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
'Here are three separate but similar things: shyness, introversion and social anxiety. You can be one, two or all three of these things simultaneously. A lot of the time people think they're all the same thing but that's just not true.'

'Millie Gerdavey cheated on her boyfriend again.'
This opening sentence made me think this book was going in a COMPLETELY different direction.
I hadn't read the blurb beforehand - something I normally do - because I knew I was going to enjoy the book. 'Beautiful Broken Things' was one of my favourite debuts of last year, and I've been highly anticipating reading more of Sara's writing since I read her first release way back in March.

Steffi has selective mutism. Well, calling it that makes it sound like her silence is a choice, but often it's completely the opposite. She wants to speak, but 'words fizz up on [her] tongue, then dissolve into nothing'. 
Rhys is the new boy at school, and he's deaf. He's good a lip-reading, but prefers to speak using BSL (British Sign Language). 
Steffi knows some BSL - her uncle decided it was worth a shot, to see if it would get her talking again - so they get introduced on the first day of school. Steffi doesn't have anyone else, because her best friend Tem went to college to study sports science rather than staying on at their sixth form, but her and Rhys strike up a fast friendship. He's patient with her, not afraid to slow down and simplify his signing so that she can follow the conversation and learn more of his language.
Soon enough, their friendship becomes more. Steffi has never had a boyfriend before, and when she's not fighting with her anxiety she's the happiest she's ever been. 
But this is the year she's supposed to be proving that she can make it on her own. If she can't show a marked improvement in her communication, her parents have told her that she can't apply to university like she wants to. Having Rhys makes her feel more confident than she's ever been before, but her mother worries that she might be using him as a safety net. 
Steffi is determined to show everyone - including herself - that she can learn to cope with her anxiety and get on with her life. Whether that'll be with or without Rhys, only time will tell. 

I'd like to tell you a story.
Last April, I turned 20. The night before, I went to see Funeral For a Friend in Cardiff. The night before that, I was seeing Bring Me The Horizon at the Royal Albert Hall. I spent the majority of my birthday with my girlfriend, walking around the countryside and talking for hours. I almost cried when she gave me presents, because they showed exactly how well she knew me, and I was struck by how much she cared about me. The night of my birthday, I went out for a wonderful meal with my mum and my grandad, and the restaurant played both 'The Fox' by Ylvis and Weird Al Yankovic's 'eBay'.
No part of the weekend could have been better.
Then the day after my birthday happened.
I woke up, and I felt as though I had a lump in my throat. It was an effort to get out of bed, the weight of the world pressing against my chest and leaving me trapped there. After a couple of hours of wallowing I summoned up some energy and made my way downstairs, but as soon as I saw my family I started crying.
I didn't stop crying the entire day. I couldn't explain why; I could hardly speak because I was blubbering, hyperventilating and internally berating myself. What was wrong with me? Why did I have to ruin one of the happiest weekends of my life by having the worst day I could ever remember experiencing?
Why couldn't I just be happy like a regular person? 
Steffi has a birthday party, which goes amazingly. She spends the day with her family, Tem and Rhys, and nothing could possible be better. But when she goes to bed she has a debilitating panic attack. She's awake until the early hours of the morning, worrying about losing all of the people around her and never having another wonderful day like that again.
As you can see, I related to this book.
When my counsellor told me I had anxiety, I laughed her off. I wasn't anxious, I had the same worries as everyone else! Everyone gets on the bus and starts panicking about the potential of missing their stop. Everyone worries about their friends and family dying.
Everyone worries, but some people worry more than others. Seeing pieces of myself in Steffi at multiple points during 'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' has helped me realise that I should have listened to my counsellor, and it has made me more determined than ever to focus on self-care and the state of my mental health.

I loved everything about this novel.
The relationship between Steffi and Rhys is adorable, but more importantly than that it's realistic. There's no kissing in unrealistic places, just a simple make-out session under the glare of a streetlight. Their first time isn't perfect - in fact, Steffi's happy to admit that the second time was much better than the first! These aren't scenes out of a movie; these are scenes out of real life. Reading their interactions made me miss my boyfriend, but it also made me feel beyond grateful to have someone who I feel this strongly about. If you've ever taken anyone you love for granted, this book will remind you just how special they are to you.
Sara Barnard doesn't gloss over the less attractive parts of being a teenager. Steffi and Rhys both make mistakes - particularly when she sends him the Youtube link to a song and doesn't consider his inability to hear! - but that's a part of being human. Steffi argues with Tem, because even lifelong best friendships have fault lines. There's the usual tension between Steffi and her parents, but with an unusual family dynamic: Steffi's mum and dad have both remarried but remain civil, and Steffi's stepbrother, Clarke, died a few years ago.
Nothing in this book is perfect, which is what makes the story itself so faultless. I could list every scene here, do a page-by-page breakdown of all of the action and why I loved it so much, or you can just go and read it yourself.
I don't need to justify why you'll love this book, because you're going to. It's impossible not to think of this as one of the best young adult novels ever written.

This is my favourite book of all time.
Thank you so much, Sara, for writing such a beautiful book. 
'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' is a book that's helped me understand myself more, a book that's shining a light on the struggles of the deaf community, a book that shows that you can do anything that you put your mind to. 
Yes, it's a love story. 
But it's so much more than that.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you loved this, it swept me off my feet too, just the realism in the depiction of anxiety and the romance and the fumbling teenage years. Definitely a new favourite