Glow

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Pub Date 01 Sep 2017 | Archive Date 26 Nov 2018

Description

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?

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...


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ISBN 9780807529638
PRICE $16.99 (USD)

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Glow started off kind of...odd. The first two pages were a sort of prologue about light vs dark but when it segued into Julie's life, the plot took off. Julie is a talented eighteen year old artist who lives with her mom. Her father took off and they are having financial difficulties so Julie sacrificed her dream of going to art school. She used her savings to stave off foreclosure and has taken on two jobs to help make ends meet. One day shopping with her best friend in a thrift store, Julie discovers a unique painting that calls to her. With that first purchase, Julie discovers the Radium Girls and their history.

Very solid YA book. It's gritty without being too close to home and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep a reader guessing (my guessing was always wrong :) ).

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Julie, who has recently given her college savings account to her mother to prevent foreclosure, stumbles upon a mysterious painting. When she takes the painting home, she discovers that it glows in the dark. Julie becomes obsessed with the paintings and the artist and searches for more paintings and the rest of the story. Weaved seamlessly into the story are the letters of Lydia, a young women who works in a factory painting glow in the dark numbers on watch faces. When mysterious illnesses begin the plague the young women of the factory, Lydia tries her hardest to protect her family.

I have always loved a story that makes me look for more. This was one of those stories. As I read through, the creepy nature of the art and the horrifying circumstances facing Lydia and her sister Liza captured my attention and imagination. I too would have been desperately searching for more paintings and the rest of the story right along with Julie. While Julie's story didn't particularly resonate with me, I couldn't stop reading because I was desperate to know what was happening to Lydia and Liza. As soon as the source of their illness was disclosed, I began research on it. That was when I discovered that the fate of Lydia and Liza was part of a historical event. I am excited to learn more about this aspect of history that was heretofore unknown to me.

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I am way older than the target audience, but any teen/YA that's into history should find this book well written and enjoyable. I actually ended up doing more research on the true story background because I was so intrigued.

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When I started this book, I was completely unaware of this part of history. Now I'm fascinated by it and have done research to learn more. Glow is well written and draws you in quickly! I loved this book!!

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The story moved back and forth between Julie, from the present, who finds a painting that looks different when the lights are turned off. As an artist, she becomes obsessed with finding out how this was done. The past consists of letters from a young woman, one of the people who painted the numbers on watches using dangerous paints, to her boyfriend who is in the military. The letters become more upsetting as the book goes on, and we are given a glimpse of what life was like for the radium girls.

The author did a good job of showing how the characters felt through their actions and words. She also set each scene with the little details that bring a book to life. As with any good book, there are a few characters that are a bit difficult to like, and some that feel superfluous, however, they do bring out different elements of the characters personality and I felt they were an interesting addition: One of these is Luke, a young college student Julie meets who really gives her much to think about as he has taken a different approach than she in terms of a college education. There is also Julie’s mother, who was saved from losing her house by her daughter’s giving up her college fund, and she doesn’t seem to want to work. These people let you see other sides of the main character.


The book does make me curious about what happened in the past with the radium girls, and I plan to read the non fiction book on this subject. Overall, I thought the book was an interesting one on a topic I knew nothing about.

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This story was so good! Even though Julie and Lauren are young adults, this story will appeal to all. While shopping, Julie and Lauren discover some paintings at a thrift store. To their amazement, these paintings glow in the dark. Julie becomes obsessed with finding out why these paintings glow and starts searching for more of them at other thrift stores. She soon learns about the Radium Girls and how these paintings are connected to them. I recently read The Radium Girls by Kate Morton, and this is historical fiction based on these courageous young women. I highly recommend this book! It is very well written and is will make the reader want to learn more about The Radium Girls!

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Bryant, Megan E. Glow, 272 pages. Albert Whitman, 2017. $17. Language: PG-13 (32 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G (inferences only); Violence: PG-13 (gruesome disfigurements).

In the present day - Julie’s dreams were shattered when her father left them and she had to give her college savings to her mother to keep their heads afloat. While her best friend is shopping and packing her bags for her college years, Julie finds a strange painting, made even stranger when she realizes it glows in the dark, revealing unsettling, actually quite disturbing new scapes. In 1917 - Lydia is so excited when her older sister gets her a well-paying job at the watch factory. The girls are painting tiny numbers on the dial in a new paint that allows them to be read in the dark. In order to make such tiny numbers, the girls lick the brushes to point the tips. The girls’ stories intersect through a diary and the paintings, which reveal a grim, little known scene out of American history.

Bryant does a skillful job of interweaving the modern and the historic, helping readers connect with a topic they might not otherwise bother with. If you haven’t heard of the Radium Girls, give them quick look. Bryant brings both stories back around together in a satisfying, if tragic way.

MS, HS - ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library teacher

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Glow is one-half contemporary young adult novel and one-half historical, epistolary, young adult novel. It is eye-opening to see the lifestyles of two women of the same age, but different times, juxtaposed. In one instance, you have a young woman, Lydia, whose love is fighting in the trenches in World War I, working at a factory for a decent wage to help support her family, slowly coming to terms that the fascinating paint she uses could be deadly while another, Julie, works to save for college at McDonald’s where the danger is smelling like grease after work.

Lydia’s story is engrossing (it must be; I started Glow around 9 pm and finished at am, unwilling to set the book aside). She is a decent young woman whose boyfriend has just left for the war and she’s despondent until her older sister, Liza, drags her, pretty much literally, to the factory where she works when there is an opening, after a young woman gets sick. Because the pay is so good, Lydia is happy to work there. She also is intrigued by the glowing paint because it seems to beautiful.

However, as time passes and the young woman who was sick, dies, and Liza becomes ill, Lydia begins to suspect things may not be all that they seem.

Julie’s story is not quite as fascinating, but only because it feels like most contemporary young adult novels, except that Bryant has not glossed over Julie’s interactions or those around her. Julie and her friend, Lauren, act like modern teenagers with pettiness sometimes rearing its head, blended with jealousy and impatience.

Glow delves into how people communicate and how they sometimes don’t. Lydia and her sisters often miscommunicate and have hurt feelings as a result. Likewise, Julie and Lauren and Julie’s mom miscommunicate with the same result. Maybe times haven’t changed too extensively.

Bryant doesn’t shy away from discussing science in Glow. For me, a caped, crusading tech writer/editor during the day, this was not an issue; it felt like science-light to me. Some who dislike science might find it grueling while I was intrigued. Also, Bryant doesn’t shy away from discussing the sometimes gruesome details of radiation poisoning, which made the story of the girls working in the factory so very sad, especially when some men were more concerned with covering up the possibility of sickness rather than helping.

Lastly, there is some beautiful writing in Glow, especially passages near the end where Julie contemplates her future, having been enlightened by all of the events she experienced.

I highly recommend Glow, especially for those of you who are intrigued by science and this dark passage in the aftermath of the discovery of radium when it was thought it would be the cure to cancer and other health problems. Even as I write these last words, I think of more I’d like to share with you, but then I could be discussing Glow all day and you’d never have a chance to read it.

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The books I like best set a really good story, or maybe two, in an authentic time in history. Glow by Megan E. Bryant, with its book birthday today on September 1, is just such a book. Chapters rotate between two teenaged girls. Julie’s story is told in narrative in the present day while Lydia’s tale is in letters to her soldier. Not only does Megan shift between the two girls with different styles of story, their distinctive voices in the telling reflect the period in which they live.

Present day Julie has relationship issues with a father who has abandoned the family, a mother who needs her college money for debt rescue, a friend whose continuing plans for college inspire envy, and maybe a boyfriend. These become peripheral when Julie finds some mysterious art in a secondhand store which glows in the dark revealing an entirely different painting. She begins a trek to find out where and how it was produced and who the “LG” might be who signed these and other paintings she locates in her search. It is almost too late before she realizes the paintings themselves are placing her in great danger.

Lydia, in the alternating chapters, tells her story in the letters she writes to Walter beginning on September 5, 1917. She and her two sisters become caught up in the excitement of making glow-in-the-dark watches. The reader will see where this is going long before Lydia does and will want to yell out words of caution.

Like many books listed for young adults, this one captures the attention of an adult reader as well. The Author’s Note at the end gives a good capsule of the history behind the novel. For a more detailed historical account, I recommend a paired reading with The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore, which I reviewed on this blog on May 12, 2017.

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When I was first asked to read and review Megan E. Bryant's Glow, I was instantly intrigued by the Radium Girls aspect. As a chemistry graduate student, I'm always interested in (1) anything that has do with science and (2) seeing how factory workers' conditions once were, especially regarding the case of radium.

As it turns out, Glow was a stellar read! Beautifully blending together historical accuracy and two girls's coming-of-ages, Glow was a book I easily devoured in one extra-long sitting.

One of my favorite aspects was the dual narrative. As I've said before, sometimes it works in books and sometimes it doesn't. Thankfully, in the case of Glow it truly managed to work quite well. Megan E. Bryant did a beautiful job of blending together Julie's narrative point of view with that of Lydia's letters to Walter. It was incredibly easy to not only connect with both characters but also get to truly know them over the course of the story. Additionally, Megan did a great job of switching between the two at just the right moments - building up suspense for both Lydia and Julie's respective stories.

Lydia's letters particularly struck a cord in me, as they managed to grab ahold of my heart and squeeze it. When Glow first introduces Lydia, she's the typical lovesick wartime girlfriend, sad to see her man off to war, even thought she knows it's for the good of the country. Soon enough Lydia throws herself into a new gig, painting dial watches. Over time, she begins to feel some more importance - she's doing this great deed for the solders, helping them to tell time even when it's dark outside. I loved seeing her cultivate her skill and gain a family within the workers at the factory. Those relationships are what made her so life-like and real to me. I also loved her bond with her sisters and mother, especially when it came to protecting her little sister. While all these relationships ended up breaking my heart even more as the times got tough and the conditions got worst, I was so happy and even honored to get to read the story of Lydia and her fellow factory girls. It was one that shined an important light on the narrative of a radium girl, truly making the reader understand and feel the thoughts and feelings they experienced.

I also throughly enjoyed Julie's POV. Julie's a character who is incredibly down on her luck. She's had to forfeit college to save her family, and by doing so, she's managed to alienate herself from everyone who loves her. From the start, I was impressed by Julie's determination to earn the money to put herself through college; however, I was hoping she'd be able to finally open up to someone about how lost she has been. Over the course of the book, Julie goes from being a "watcher" to a "go-getter," someone who's not afraid to ask the college boy for help, or break into a factory to get answers, or even stand up to a friend who has been treating her bad. I loved seeing that development occur, especially when it involved Julie cultivating her scientific and detective abilities. There was one aspect, though, that did bug me about her character: the amount of time it took her to truly understand what was going on. However, I can only be so taken aback by it, as it did help to make the storyline more interesting - constantly waiting for the moment Julie realized what was going on.

As hinted to above, the plot of Glow is also incredibly addictive. I loved how Megan brought to light a time so often ignored in history: the time of the Radium Girls and the horrible, deadly poisoning they were unknowingly subjected to at the time. I hate to admit this, but prior to reading Glow, I didn't know too much about the Radium Girls. Over the course of the story, however, I learned a lot and every time a new detail of ignorance from the higher-ups or a new odd sickness of one the girls came to light, my stomach turned. I was internally screaming "leave the factory, don't continue with the painting!"

In all, Glow is an amazing and thought provoking story. Throughout the story, it's easy to feel the pain, the hope, and most importantly, the love these characters posses. If you love science and brave female characters, you simply must add this to your TBR!

Grade: A

*This review will be added on Amazon & Barnes and Noble on the release date.*

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*I received this book for free from Publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Read this review and more on my blog.The Book Return Blog
'There's a certain kind of light that I should have been afraid of all along.'


Radium was discovered by Marie Sklodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre Curie on December 21, 1898. When radium decays it causes luminescence. With America's entry into WWI came a need for self-luminous aircraft switches and instrument dials.
Marie and Pierre Curie by André Castaigne
Soldiers involved in trench warfare were especially in need of watches that could be seen in complete darkness. The harmful effects of radium were not yet known. Factories that produced the luminescent dials were set up Orange, New Jersey, Ottawa, Illinois, and Waterbury, Connecticut. These factories employed young girls and women to paint the numbers and hands with radium. Enter the radium girls.
Watch hands painted with radium
The painters were instructed to point their paintbrushes between their lips to create finer details on the numbers and hands of the watches. Not surprisingly, soon many of the workers began experiencing sores, anemia, and bone cancer. Radium is treated as calcium by the body and is deposited in the bones. The dial painting companies tried to cover up the adverse effects of radium and insisted that their workers were suffering syphilis (let that sink in for a minute). The tragedy of the radium girls, impart, lead to the forming of the Occupational Disease Labor Law.





'Glow' is told in alternating past and present points of view. Glow's past point of view tells the story of Lydia Grayson and her two sisters, Charlotte, and Liza. Liza works in the Orange, New Jersey dial painting factory. Liza gets Lydia a job there when one of the other girls becomes ill (a bit of foreshadowing here). This POV is told through letters Lydia writes to her beau, Walter, who is an American soldier fighting in Europe during WWI.
Glow's present POV is told from the first person perspective of Julie. Julie is a high school senior who is hoping to go to art school. Her future becomes marred due to family issues. Julie becomes fascinated with paintings she finds in a thrift store. She is then pulled into the search for the artist and the paintings past.


I love historical fiction but I have found that just plain historical fiction can be a bit dry. I really enjoy historical-fiction novels that switch between past and present points of view. When this done well, the past and present POV weave together two seemingly unrelated storylines that come together seamlessly.


YA historical fiction is not a genre that is as popular as it should be. Young Adult historical fiction is often pushed to the side by the flashier fantasy and feel-good contemporary novels. There are so many pieces of history that can tell an engaging story.
I loved so much about 'Glow'. I loved the characters of Liza and Lydia. Both their stories and personalities really brought life to the novel. Their younger sister Charlotte's passion to become one of the dial painters, like her sisters, really illustrated why women would want to work in the dial factories at this time. My one and only complaint with 'Glow' is that I would have liked to know more about Liza, Lydia, and Charlotte's mother. She was mentioned a few times but not really part of the story. I found my self-wondering how she was feeling about everything.



At first, I wasn't sure how I felt about Lydia's POV being told through her letters to her beau Walter. As I read, I realized these snippets of her life lead to the build-up of finding out what happened to her and her family. Their story was definitely a tear-jerker.

Julie's story was equally compelling. Her difficulties with her family and her friend, Lauren, really shows how she was struggling to deal with her own issues. Her love of art and science gave her an escape and gave an explanation why she was so fascinated by the paintings she discovered. Luke as a character was wonderful. Luke had his own issues so he was able to understand Julie's family problems. He was funny and kind and his added knowledge of chemistry added realism to Julie's story. I liked the relationship that he formed with Julie. Julie and Luke's relationship progressed slowly as this type of relationship usually does.

I found 'Glow' completely fascinating. I had never heard about the radium girls before. The radium girl's story is so enthralling and tragic. I can't believe their plight isn't more well known. This is such an important part of history. I have since found out that a non-fiction account of the radium girls story has been published and I am anxious to find out how it compares to 'Glow.' You can see it here.

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AW Teen and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Glow. I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

When Julie's dreams of pursuing her art at a top-notch university are crushed due to sudden financial obligations, her spirits are at their lowest point. A find in a thrift store of an old painting, however, gives the young woman a purpose. With only the initials of the artist to go by, will Julie ever be able to ask about the secret technique in the painting?

The story is written in two perspectives, in two distinct time periods. As Julie becomes more involved in discovering the identity of the artist and procuring more of the artist's works, the reader is looped into the past as it unfolded. Having read The Radium Girls by Kate Moore in the past few months, I recognized where author Megan E. Bryant was going with Glow. I thought it took her too long to get to the point, though, as the past unfolded with such a slow pace that readers unfamiliar with the subject matter may become lost. That being said, the author was successful in marrying two time periods together in a cohesive story. Both main characters were realistically drawn and their stories were both compelling. Readers who are fans of historical fiction will enjoy Glow and I definitely would recommend the book.

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When I was offered this book for review I was very interested in the synopsis - the Radium Girls are not something I was overly familiar with but wanted to learn a bit more. This is a fictional story about a girl named Julie, that is going through some things in her life, she finds a painting and realizes that it glows in the dark. She makes it her summer mission to figure out how and why it does this.

The author uses Julie's story alternating with letters from a young girl in 1918 to portray both the present tale and the past in some detail. While Julie is uncovering the mystery of the paintings in her story, the reader is also learning about girls working in a Radium factory painting dials on watch faces for men at war.

I wasn't the biggest fan of Julie throughout the story - I was more interested with her leading me through the paintings and how she was finding them and trying to recreate them. I really loved reading the letters from Lydia in 1918 to her war hero Walter. They were interesting and it is where I learned about the Radium factory and what they did there. The author even has a note at the end of the book talking about the actual Radium Girls and how this story differs from the history but it was all very intriguing.

I really, really enjoyed this book for the brushes with history and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something like this. It was still fiction but very good. It is also a coming of age story and in Julie's tale there is a lot of life lessons that come out of her locating the paintings. It was a quick read because I was so enthralled with it all.

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