An empowering, contemporary, middle grade novel featuring a main protagonist who suffers from extreme shyness, Quiet Storm will have readers cheering at full volume for Storm Williams.
I absolutely loved this debut title from teacher Kimberly Whittam, who writes with compassion, wit and authenticity about tweens and teens, school life and the everyday challenges that need to be faced as young people find their true selves. I have not seen an introvert feature as a main protagonist in fiction for this age-group previously and a high bar has been set here. My heart went out to eleven year old Storm as she struggled through each day in Year 7, afraid to speak to any of the children in her form, none of whom are from her primary school, and reliant on meeting Zarrish, her former best friend from primary during every break and lunchtime. Although she is from a perfectly lovely family, with a gregarious and kind older brother who “is on a one-boy mission to save the world”, Storm has not managed to find the ability to express herself and would rather cower in silence than be the focus of any attention at all. Life becomes increasingly difficult for her when the family have to move in with her Grandma when their home is flooded, pitching Storm into close contact with the troublemaker in her form, at the same time as mean-girl Melissa arrives on the scene to disrupt her friendship with Zarrish.
The unexpected discovery of her huge talent on the athletics track where running is “exhilarating but calming at the same time” is the catalyst for change in Storm’s interaction with those around her. The sudden plunge into the spotlight, with the pressure of a regional athletics competition as well as a school house championship to compete for, push Storm to the limits of her confidence. Will she retreat into her shell, or find her voice, embrace her talents and find acceptance for who she truly is? The secondary plot revealing trouble-maker Ryan’s real personality, life circumstances and qualities adds an additional motivation for Storm to express herself.
Quiet Storm is a celebration of all the qualities that make each individual unique, it is a book which encourages readers to develop understanding for the behaviours of others and to respect those children who may not be outgoing but who have strengths which are not always immediately obvious in the bustle of a classroom. The positive portrayal of a girls’ athletics squad was refreshing too; the teamwork, kindness and fun of working together for a successful outcome was a strong feature of the story. The sibling relationship between Storm and Isaiah was believable and touching, in particular Isaiah’s revelation that he had been bullied for being a swot but had decided to be his own person and had grown into the adored head boy that everyone in the school respected. Finally, I enjoyed the teacher and teaching assistant characters, each of whom had a distinctive personality and all of whom were positive and nurturing towards the students in their care.
I would highly recommend Quiet Storm to children of 11+, it is due to be published on 8th June 2023 and would be a perfect read for Year 6 children as they reach the end of their primary school journeys, as well as Year 7 and 8 readers.
I am most grateful to Liz Scott and Usborne Publishing for sending me a proof copy of Quiet Storm ahead of publication in exchange for my honest opinion.