Books Mentally Yours Reading Themes Young Adult (YA) Literature

An Unusual Sort of British Love Story in Sara Barnard’s “A Quiet Kind Of Thunder”

Myra here.

I have been reading quite a number of novels in connection with our reading theme. This one is an unusual coming-of-age story that shows a blossoming love between two teenagers who are dealing with their own struggles and issues.

A Quiet Kind Of Thunder

Written by: Sara Barnard
Published by: Macmillan Children’s Books, 2017
ISBN: 1509810986 (ISBN13: 9781509810987)
Review copy provided by Pansing Books. 

This is essentially a love story between Steffi, diagnosed with elective mutism and concomitant anxiety disorder, and Rhys, a hearing impaired good-looking young man. It may sound cliche with a boy who can not hear matched with a girl who refuses to speak, yet somehow it worked quite well.

There is the exploration of taking “normality” for granted, as the reader sees through Steffi’s anxious eyes, made even more apprehensive with the absence of her long-time bestfriend, Tem, who usually fills her silences and serves as her interpreter in their jungle-like highschool:

While Tem could have functioned as the “token” coloured bestfriend, she never really struck me as such. She was full-bodied here with her own adolescent concerns that she needed to navigate on her own. In fact, if I were to be honest, I like her character more than Steffi’s.

Things became infinitely interesting when it grew more evident how Rhys ‘fancied’ Steffi – I thought I might as well use British terminologies seeing how I’ve been reading way too many UK-based novels. I felt through Rhys’ resistance being dismissed as ‘deaf,’ his insecurities about being unable to adequately take care of his girl, and his attempts at providing Steffi with the adventure she longed for.

It was somehow easier going through Steffi’s struggles since there is also young love here with all its first love highs – the gentleness, the awkwardness, the sweet romance of it all. Yet Steffi’s issues were never downplayed, nor were they unnecessarily blown out of proportion too in an overly dramatized way. There were also a few laugh-out-loud moments that were downright hysterical as perceived from my early-40-something eyes, that I am sure would be swoon-inducing to teenagers.

While it must have been difficult for the author to represent varied voices here, I thought it was portrayed quite sensitively and with humour, compassion, and a lot of heart. Read this and fall in love all over again.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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