A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Monday 23 October 2017

Steffi doesn't talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can't hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn't a lightning strike, it's the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life - she's been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He's deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she's assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn't matter that Steffi doesn't talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she's falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder was the perfect pick me up after slogging through a more challenging read. Quick, lighthearted yet with elements of seriousness, well researched, likeable characters, a dog. What’s not to love?

This book follows our main character, Steffi, as she adjusts to life at sixth form without her best friend by her side but with the addition of medication for her crippling social anxiety. It’s a very raw, honest look at anxiety, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it perfect. Very well done, yes, but as someone who suffers from GAD I could see a few errors. Mainly the fact that Steffi didn’t come across as as bad as she was claimed, but I put this down to the fact that we only get to see her during one school year – and one of her better ones at that. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s experiences of mental health are different and individual to themselves, as you never fully know what they’re going through. This was the case with Steffi, I felt, as we learn in the book that she does keep some things to herself. (And just because person A is going through something different to person B doesn't mean either's experience is invalid.)

Gripes aside, the anxiety did feel realistic. I’ve definitely experienced some of the same feelings, and the way panic attacks were described were spot on. Barnard is totally right in saying that anxiety doesn’t care whether you’re happy or not, because it doesn’t. Steffi is, arguably, a positive character for most of the book. She has her ups and downs, of course, and throughout all of this she still has anxiety. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a portrayal of mental illness that doesn’t fall into stereotypical behaviour.

Barnard’s writing also made this a very easy-going, quick read. It feels chatty and personal, allowing us to get closer to Steffi, but not in a way that dumbed it down or oversimplified it. The inclusion of text and instant message conversations also adds to the speed at which you get through the book, and gives better insight into Steffi’s, Tem’s, and Rhys’ characterisations.

And Steffi, Tem, and Rhys all have distinct voices. They all feel realistic and separate from one another, but they fit so nicely together you can see why they get on so well. Tem is so supportive of Steffi and protects her when she needs it, encouraging her when the time is right, and overall just acting like a best friend even when the situation isn’t ideal. Rhys teaches Steffi new things, expands her world, and makes her happy. (Okay, he’s also a typical boy at times and I couldn’t help but feel that their relationship moved a bit too fast, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment that much.) Steffi’s parents, too, all have unique voices and views on her situation, and it’s nice to see that she doesn’t have the traditional ‘perfect’ family life. Her parents are divorced, there’s a half-sister, a dead step-brother, and her mother doesn’t quite see eye to eye with her or fully understand her anxiety. Frustrating at times, yes, but all the more realistic.

If you’re after a cute, lighthearted read that tackles heavier subject matter A Quiet Kind of Thunder is the book you need.


  1. This sounds like such a great story! I'm definitely going to give it a try. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    1. It really is! Very sweet and realistic - a tad frustrating at times, but that just adds to the realism if you ask me!


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