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“If you do the wrong thing for the right reason, is it still wrong?” Lydia. —Glow
by Megan Bryant
Julie’s future plans of going to New York for college have died. Julie is frustrated with her mother’s financial problems, a dead-end job, and a best friend who is moving on without her. When she discovers a series of antique paintings in a thrift store with hidden glowing images, her curiosity is piqued. As Julie looks for clues to the artist’s identity, she finds more paintings with increasingly nightmarish scenes hidden in the daylight.
Lydia’s story comes to life as she writes to her beloved who is on the front lines of the Great War. One hundred years before Julie’s time, Lydia is excited to join the girls in the factory painting luminous watch dials for soldiers. She is hoping that her factory job will help her struggling family, but when girls from the factory become seriously ill, Lydia wonders if there is danger lurking in the factory’s new scientific paint.
As Julie’s obsession with the paintings mounts, she discovers the truth about the Radium Girls. As she learns about the paintings, she also learns that relationships are more complicated than she thought. In the end, Julie realizes that when life’s obstacles destroy your plan, there can be a new path to finding your goal.
Megan E. Bryant tells a beautiful story of love, friendship, and broken dreams. Julie’s story is told in the first-person point of view, which allows her range of emotions to be highlighted. As Julie grieves the loss of her college dream, she also struggles with feelings of resentment towards her mother and envy over her best friend’s future. Teens will be able to relate to Julie’s frustration because life doesn’t always go as planned. However, in the end, Julie learns valuable lessons about the secrets that people keep.
Lydia’s story is told in letter format. Every other chapter of Glow focuses on Lydia’s life and concerns. The reader will learn about how life was for a young woman who lived during World War I. Lydia’s only wish is to have her soldier come home safely so they can be reunited. The unexpected ending of Lydia’s story is heartbreaking and will leave the reader in tears.
Glow captures the reader’s attention from the very beginning. The mystery of the paintings, as well as the captivating characters, make Glow a difficult book to put down. Although Glow is written for readers as young as 12, younger readers may be disturbed by the gruesome descriptions that are found hidden in the paintings. The story describes the horrific effects of radiation poisoning both in the paintings and in Lydia’s older sister’s slow death. Although there is very little sexual content, the story does show the shame of being diagnosed with syphilis during the early 1900s.
- Julie makes a wisecrack and then wonders if it made her sound “slutty.”
- Lydia’s boss takes “liberties” with the girls. “A leering smile here, a sneering remark there, even a pinch from time to time . . . I do not smile when he is near, lest he think I encourage such behaviors.” Later in the story, Lydia discovers her sister and her boss, “locked in a tender embrace. His thick and calloused hand, pressed to her chest. . . “
- A doctor diagnoses Lydia’s sister with Syphilis. Lydia “has never heard it spoken out loud before, just in whisper-hisses hidden behind hands when an uncharitable rumor spreads from girl to girl.” According to the doctor, Lydia’s boss said he had an affair with her sister. The doctor said, “We also understand that your sister is known for dangling her favors before a great many men. . .”
- When Julie is upset, her friend Luke tries to comfort her. “I just leaned up and kissed him. His lips were as soft as I imagined they would be. . . his kisses were so good, just what I wanted, just what I needed, my fingers ran through his hair, and it was so soft, so silky. I couldn’t help pulling his face closer to mine, and I think he liked it. . . I tugged at his jeans, fumbled for the button, for the zipper. Luke was poised above me. I was ready. He was ready . . . He pulled away.”
- Julie thinks back to her time with Luke. “When I thought about how ready I’d been to sleep with him, in the mud, on the worst night of my life, I wanted to pull my hair over my face and hide. I wanted to die of shame.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- When Lydia’s sister breaks her leg, she is given morphine for the pain. After an operation, Lydia’s sister is again given morphine for the pain.
- Julie remembers a time when she and her friend “got wasted.”
- Profanity is used rarely throughout the book. Profanity includes crap, holy crap, damn, goddamn
- Julie uses Oh my God, God and Jesus as an exclamation often.
- Julie tells her friend, “I have been to hell, and it is Triple-B on a Sunday in August. God, can you imagine?”
- When Julie touches a painting, her friend yells, “Come on, Julie, you know this. Don’t touch the goddamn painting.”
- In a letter, Lydia writes, “I send my greatest hopes that the Almighty will protect you.”
- When Lydia’s sister has surgery, Lydia thinks that “God willing the procedure will . . . offer a cure.”