“When thrift-store aficionado Julie discovers a series of antique paintings with hidden glowing images that are only visible in the dark, she wants to learn more about the artist. In her search, she uncovers a century-old romance and the haunting true story of the Radium Girls, young women who used radioactive paint to make the world’s first glow-in-the-dark products—and ultimately became radioactive themselves. As Julie’s obsession with the paintings mounts, truths about the Radium Girls—and her own complicated relationships—are revealed. But will she uncover the truth about the luminous paintings before putting herself and everyone she loves at risk?” (Source: Goodreads)
I have a love hate relationship with Glow, an upcoming young adult novel from Megan E. Bryant. Earlier this year, I read The Radium Girls by Kate Moore – an absolutely horrifying account of injustices committed against young women under the guise of patriotism. Before Moore, I cannot recall ever hearing about the dial painters. This book provides a fictional account based heavily on true stories about the girls that met their untimely demise.
The main character of Glow is a young woman of eighteen by the name of Jubilee – but don’t you dare call her that! She prefers Julie. After making the ultimate sacrifice for her mother, she spends the summer unraveling the mysteries behind paintings she finds at thrift stores while her best friend prepares for college.
Between each chapter, readers find an epistolary account from the mind of Lydia Grayson. Like her sisters, Lydia is one of the many girls that worked for the American Radium Company (I think I got that right). The Grayson sisters, for those that haven’t read The Radium Girls in order to make the comparison, appears to be based loosely on the Maggia sisters, while the company is, obviously, a fictionalized version of the United States Radium Corporation. (Amelia “Mollie” Maggia was the first of the Radium Girls to die.)
Unlike most books that attempt this method, I do not find the switch between perspectives and styles to be detrimental or clunky – if anything, it is inconvenient. Rather than wrap up preceding chapters, Bryant uses these switches to leave Julie’s story on a cliffhanger more than once throughout the book. This style can easily be avoided, considering the letters written from Lydia to her boyfriend are interesting enough on their own to propel the reader forward.
While Julie’s story offers an plot that appeals to younger readers, I feel Glow would have worked just fine without it. For that purpose, I’m caught between a three and a four on this book. Ultimately, I lean toward the latter and must applaud Bryant on the amount of research she obviously put into writing this book. Julie’s story is unbelievable and full of things that I simply have no interest in, but the haunting tale that the Grayson sisters weave is horrifying.
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book for the purpose of unbiased review.