* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date: January 12th 2017
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
I loved Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things and couldn’t wait to get my hands on her new book. I’m writing this in November 2016 and can’t believe I have to wait til next year to share this with everyone!
I adored all the characters in this book. Steffi has selective mutism as well as extreme anxiety and the way she explained these and described the symptoms were really effective. I’ve not experienced either of these things myself so can only imagine what it must feel like, but others who have similar issues have said they’re spot on. Rhys, who is deaf but can talk and lip read, was the sweetest guy until he got in one of his moods. I found it really fascinating to think of him filtering everything he signed in a way that people don’t do when they speak. It’s not something I’ve thought of before and it added so much to the character. I also loved Tem, Steffi’s best friend who sticks by her through everything, even when she’s being ditched for the new boyfriend.
I love that Beautiful Broken Things centered around friendship rather than love, and was unsure how I’d feel about this book being quite a lot about the romance. But there was so much more to it than that, and I really saw Steffi and Rhys’s romance as an extended friendship rather than some terrible insta-love. I had some worries about Steffi’s mutism being fixed by finding a boyfriend, or ignoring her problems because she doesn’t have to talk aloud to a deaf boyfriend, but Barnard was way ahead of me and these things weren’t an issue.
It was really interesting to see the different worlds the two lived in. Together, they had a perfect little bubble where they could talk and sign to each other and be comfortable. But when Steffi was around school friends etc she didn’t sign as she spoke and it made Rhys feel out of the loop and wonder if she was ashamed of him. And when Steffi was with his friends, she found her sign language knowledge wasn’t really that good and struggled to keep up with him. I used to look after some of the younger deaf children in my primary school and know a little sign language but I can imagine I’d feel out of my depth like Steffi if I tried to have a conversation with people who sign everyday. It’s like using your GCSE French knowledge on an actual French person: limited and slow.
This book is rich with emotion, friendship and romance and just hit all the right spots. I think it’s definitely one to watch out for in 2017.