Please be aware that this review contains some spoilers. Do not continue reading unless you are fine with being spoiled.
I was both excited and nervous about reading A Quiet Kind of Thunder. Mostly because The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier was one of my favourite reads of 2016 and this sounded pretty darn similar. Basic story: a girl with selective mutism engages in a new romance and slowly starts to take control of her anxiety.
Thankfully, the rest of the plot was completely different. In A Quiet Kind of Thunder, we meet Steffi at a point when she has made significant progress with her selective mutism. While she has recently started taking medication to help with her condition, Steffi was already able to hold down a job and communicate with customers, and even hold conversations in social situations in some instances.
When Steffi was younger, an uncle encouraged her to learn British Sign Language (BSL) as another form of communication, and it’s this ability that drives a lot of the novel. Why? Because her love interest (Rhys) is deaf. They each have their own communication issues to deal with, and Steffi isn’t fluent in BSL but the way they learn to talk to each other is beautiful.
More than anything, I’m glad that Sara Barnard was able to articulate the ups and downs of severe anxiety without making it seem like a condition someone can recover from in a slow linear progression. She explains things without lecturing, and doesn’t skim over the occasions when Steffi is unintentionally acting like a jerk.
Steffi’s journey, while entwined with Rhys’s, is not defined by her boyfriend. His love doesn’t miraculously cure her, and even her greatest triumphs still cause Steffi to question herself. The inner monologue during her panic attacks had me in tears more than once, and I found this to be an extremely realistic portrayal of anxiety.
This was a beautifully-written book, and one I would definitely recommend to people of all ages.
I was provided with an advance copy of this book by Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.