First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books, for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
‘Here are three separate but similar things: shyness, introversion and social anxiety. You can be one, two or all three of these things simultaneously. A lot of the time people think they’re all the same thing but that’s just not true.’
‘Millie Gerdavey cheated on her boyfriend again.’
This opening sentence made me think this book was going in a COMPLETELY different direction.
I hadn’t read the blurb beforehand – something I normally do – because I knew I was going to enjoy the book. ‘Beautiful Broken Things’ was one of my favourite debuts of last year, and I’ve been highly anticipating reading more of Sara’s writing since I read her first release way back in March.
I’d like to tell you a story.
Last April, I turned 20. The night before, I went to see Funeral For a Friend in Cardiff. The night before that, I was seeing Bring Me The Horizon at the Royal Albert Hall. I spent the majority of my birthday with my girlfriend, walking around the countryside and talking for hours. I almost cried when she gave me presents, because they showed exactly how well she knew me, and I was struck by how much she cared about me. The night of my birthday, I went out for a wonderful meal with my mum and my grandad, and the restaurant played both ‘The Fox’ by Ylvis and Weird Al Yankovic’s ‘eBay’.
No part of the weekend could have been better.
Then the day after my birthday happened.
I woke up, and I felt as though I had a lump in my throat. It was an effort to get out of bed, the weight of the world pressing against my chest and leaving me trapped there. After a couple of hours of wallowing I summoned up some energy and made my way downstairs, but as soon as I saw my family I started crying.
I didn’t stop crying the entire day. I couldn’t explain why; I could hardly speak because I was blubbering, hyperventilating and internally berating myself. What was wrong with me? Why did I have to ruin one of the happiest weekends of my life by having the worst day I could ever remember experiencing?
Why couldn’t I just be happy like a regular person?
Steffi has a birthday party, which goes amazingly. She spends the day with her family, Tem and Rhys, and nothing could possible be better. But when she goes to bed she has a debilitating panic attack. She’s awake until the early hours of the morning, worrying about losing all of the people around her and never having another wonderful day like that again.
As you can see, I related to this book.
When my counsellor told me I had anxiety, I laughed her off. I wasn’t anxious, I had the same worries as everyone else! Everyone gets on the bus and starts panicking about the potential of missing their stop. Everyone worries about their friends and family dying.
Everyone worries, but some people worry more than others. Seeing pieces of myself in Steffi at multiple points during ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder’ has helped me realise that I should have listened to my counsellor, and it has made me more determined than ever to focus on self-care and the state of my mental health.
I loved everything about this novel.
The relationship between Steffi and Rhys is adorable, but more importantly than that it’s realistic. There’s no kissing in unrealistic places, just a simple make-out session under the glare of a streetlight. Their first time isn’t perfect – in fact, Steffi’s happy to admit that the second time was much better than the first! These aren’t scenes out of a movie; these are scenes out of real life. Reading their interactions made me miss my boyfriend, but it also made me feel beyond grateful to have someone who I feel this strongly about. If you’ve ever taken anyone you love for granted, this book will remind you just how special they are to you.
Sara Barnard doesn’t gloss over the less attractive parts of being a teenager. Steffi and Rhys both make mistakes – particularly when she sends him the Youtube link to a song and doesn’t consider his inability to hear! – but that’s a part of being human. Steffi argues with Tem, because even lifelong best friendships have fault lines. There’s the usual tension between Steffi and her parents, but with an unusual family dynamic: Steffi’s mum and dad have both remarried but remain civil, and Steffi’s stepbrother, Clarke, died a few years ago.
Nothing in this book is perfect, which is what makes the story itself so faultless. I could list every scene here, do a page-by-page breakdown of all of the action and why I loved it so much, or you can just go and read it yourself.
I don’t need to justify why you’ll love this book, because you’re going to. It’s impossible not to think of this as one of the best young adult novels ever written.