A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard (390 pages)
Overview: Steffi has struggled with selective mutism for almost as long as she can remember. It stems from her extreme social anxiety which she's recently started medication to combat. She has to prove to her parents this year that she can handle herself well enough to go to University and send in applications the following year. Then she meets Rhys on her first day at school without her best friend, Tem. Rhys is deaf and since Steffi knows BSL (British Sign Language), they make the perfect match. As they get to know each other better, Steffi starts to test the boundaries that she and her world have made. Overall: 4.5
Characters: 5 Steffi and Rhys are awesome. They have their conflicts and miscommunications, but they really are united by a language that not many around them share, and they use that to grow. Their honesty in the way they care for one another is refreshing. Though they both have complications with their respective challenges, they do well at overcoming them both separately and together.
Another great element of this books is Steffi's parents. After they divorced, both of her parent's remarried, and it was cool to see the dynamic of all four of them being almost equally involved in her life. Like Rhys, everyone has their faltering moments, but, overall, Steffi is given a great, supportive environment.
Plot: 4 I loved getting to see the romance come to life between Rhys and Steffi that went along with Steffi slowly improving, but, luckily, Steffi's improvements are never treated as a miracle turn of events. The honest conversations about Steffi's medications and the positive portrayal of therapy as a tool to combat her social anxiety was nice to see.
My only negative comment is that the book does drag on a bit. While every scene is fun, I felt that the book could have been shorter, but there was never a moment I wanted to stop reading.
Writing: 5 It's easy to see how much care Barnard put into the story. She's careful in her portrayals, and it makes the story better for it. While I can't speak to this as an own voices reviewer, it seems like she was sensitive in her portrayal and painted a quality picture of both Steffi and Rhys and their differences. It's great to see a book that tackles mental illness and its lesser acknowledged possible side effects like Steffi's mutism along with physical disability like deafness.