Last Christmas, so three or four months ago, my sister made her displeasure known that as she moved in with her boyfriend, she was suddenly getting joint Christmas presents instead of individual ones.
Given that she’s a big moanbag, I picked her up an extra book for Christmas – Beautiful Broken Things – which she has yet to actually pass on to me so I can read it.
In any case, she enjoyed that so much that she asked if I could get Sara Barnard’s second novel, A Quiet Kind of Thunder, and then pass it on to her.
One day while I was supposed to be buying birthday cards, I did just that, and it sat on top of my TBR pile until my sister came to visit. Then she borrowed and read it, and basically, since I don’t like her having read books that I haven’t, I then had to follow on and read it myself.
But I’m very glad I did, because it was quite a nice story.
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.
From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.
There was a lot I quite liked in this book. The front cover had the BSL alphabet, and each chapter heading was accompanied by a little diagram of the number in BSL. Frustratingly, although I know my ISL alphabet, that is of absolutely no help to me, as British and Irish sign language are not at all similar. I can spell my name in BSL though.
In any case – the book! I enjoyed this love story, as it portrayed Steffi, and her selective mutism, seriously debilitating anxiety, and panic disorder, falling in love for the first time with Rhys, the new boy in her school.
There was a lot of really relatable stuff in this book, from the awkwardness of trying to figure out if someone likes you or, you know, likes you to the self-confidence issues of wondering if you’re just ‘available’ as opposed to desirable. I really empathised with Steffi at times, and felt she was a very likeable main character. She wasn’t perfect, of course, and her anxiety got in her own way half the time as she self-sabotages on the way to her happy ending.
The supporting cast of Steffi’s family and friend, plus Rhys’s wider circle, was realistic, although sometimes lacking depth. Steffi’s mother, especially, seemed to be very one-dimensional, and had no mode other than worry. But then, perhaps that is how some parents react to having a child with chronic anxiety.
Nonetheless, this coming of age story added enough new twists to still feel fresh and innovative, while covering the classic themes of growing up, finding yourself, finding your place in the world, and spreading your wings. And speaking up for yourself – both metaphorically and literally!
I very much enjoyed this book, and will definitley be borrowing Beautiful Broken Things the next time I see my sister.