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 that 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.