Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: A Thunderous Whisper - Christina Diaz Gonzalez

A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on October 9, 2012
Published by Knopf Books
Pages: 304
Read From: 4.21.13 - 4.25.13

Ani is just an insignificant whisper of a girl in a loud world. At least that's what her mother tells her. Her father made her feel important, but he's off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. 
Then Ani meets Mathias. His family recently moved to Guernica, and he's as far from a whisper as a boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is like lightning. And his father is part of a spy network. Soon Ani finds herself helping Mathias deliver messages to other members of the underground resistance. For the first time, she's actually making a difference in the world. 
But then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is bombed by Nazi airplanes. In one afternoon, Ani loses everything. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way. . . .


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Despite the character impersonator, I do like the cover. It's simple and not all that exciting, but it indicates a possible historical fiction, and the map indicated - to me, at least - a possible WWII novel.

Characters: Ani wasn't bad. At first, I didn't especially like her, because she was too quick to take offense to even the most gentle teasing, which gave her a bad temper and something akin to The Attitude. She doesn't exactly improve as the story progresses, and she has a bad habit of not telling Mathias what's really bothering her (and poor guy shouldn't have to guess her thoughts), but events keep her temper in check and she eventually does cast her sensitivity aside and stops being so rude. Mathias, on the other hand, is awesome. He's funny and passionate, curious and eager to do something to help win the war. He takes Ani's tantrums in stride, and while he has his moments of being overly sensitive about his lame leg, he gets over his anger quickly and moves on. Ani's mother is surprisingly fun to dislike and also sympathetic. She's a bitter woman, too hard on Ani, but the Reader can see the reason behind her bitterness, and it's sad. I never ended up liking her, but I definitely felt sorry for her (but not as much as I felt sorry for Ani, when her mother beat her).

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: For most of the Spanish Civil War, Guernica has largely been untouched by the war. Menfolk have gone off to fight, including Ani's father, but the quiet, close-knit community has seen no action. Ani is left to sell sardines with her bitter mother, laughed at in school by the other students, and dream of the day when her Papa will return and they can plant her acorn seed. Then Mathias arrives - a Jewish boy only a few years older than herself, and who seems to actually want to be her friend. When he and Ani inadvertently discover that Mathias' father is a spy, they become caught up in their cause, deliver messages to the members through sardine deliveries. Ani hopes to make a difference, despite her mother constantly telling her that she's too small to be more than a whisper in the loud world. And when she and Mathias finally get a chance to, she jumps on it. But shortly afterward, the war catches up to Guernica, and Ani and Mathias' lives are changed forever. This is a "lifetime" story: not much happens, and it focuses mostly on how character relationships grow than the actual plot. I'm not a huge fan of "lifetime" stories, but I enjoy reading them from time to time. A Thunderous Whisper was a very enjoyable "lifetime" story - I liked seeing Mathias and Ani's friendship grow and develop into a strong attachment, as well as Ani go from a quiet young girl, to a brave young girl who wanted to be more than a whisper. And yet . . . my biggest problem was in the end I didn't feel like Mathias and Ani really made all that much of a difference. Sure, they prevented a potential catastrophe, but at the same time it really didn't feel like it would have been all that big of a problem if it had happened without their interference. It just didn't.

Believability: I don't know a whole lot about the Spanish Civil War, so if there are any discrepancies I didn't catch them.

Writing Style: It was pleasing, and the smattering of Spanish and Basque words was actually very enjoyable. The Author includes a very helpful pronunciation and translation glossary in the back, but the context often conveys the word's meaning. And when they are used, it's not whole sentences in Spanish or Basque, but a few words, so it didn't get annoying in the least.

Content: None.

Conclusion: Right when you think Ani and Mathias have done their part for the war, Nazi bombers arrive. And maybe this is what contributed to my feeling that Ani and Mathias didn't make much of a difference. You had the prevention of the supply ship being destroyed, and then an even bigger catastrophe is practically right on its heels (at least, it feels like it is). It makes for a very sad ending, and then the Author throws in the promise of a better future for our protagonists. It is even hinted at that Mathias and Ani grow up to make a difference, and my thought is if that's the case, then maybe the book should have been about their lives then, rather than when it takes place. A Thunderous Whisper left me feeling like the book's point - even the smallest person can make a difference - didn't make it to my ears (or eyes), but I did enjoy reading about Mathias and Ani's friendship, and it was fun to read about an event in history that I don't know a whole lot about. So it wasn't a disappointing read, but it didn't move me as much as stories like this sometimes can.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, any age, fans of "relaxed" historical fiction.


  1. From the beginning, I understood this was a novel whose main characters were adolescent young teens. This period of time in their lives, along with the events they have each experienced, are captured perfectly.
    What I took away from the story was despite the personal struggles each might have, when called upon Ani and Mathias chose to help in what could and was dangerous work for adults.
    In addition to highlighing historical events as Mrs. Gonzalez has written of in her first two books, this one speaks to its readers ( esp our youth) on finding purpose, inner strength, overcoming the feeling of hopelessness, or lack of self-worth.
    Indeed, all of Mrs. Gonzalez's books have characters who are finding their purpose and inner strength, amongst other challenges. This is a good message and inner theme as her main characters are all about the same young, teen age experiencing all kids at this age do.
    My middle school students and I thoroughly enjoy all of of Mrs. Gonzalez's books. We were excited for our visit with her to our school recently. We look forward to her upcoming books. Our book talk discussions of them are lively.

    1. It's awesome your students enjoy her books so much! ^_^

    2. They do. However, we are biased. She is from Florida, our home state, and specifically grew up in our rural community. Mrs. Gonzalez is a very talented author and professional. Our students wouldn't continue to read her otherwise. We're now waiting for the movies that will be made!


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