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YA Review: The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Title: The Radium Girls: Young Readers' Edition: The Scary but True Story of the Poison that Made People Glow in the Dark
Author: Kate Moore
Year published: 2020
Category: YA nonfiction
Pages: 432 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)France, USA (IL, NJ, NY)

SummaryAmid the excitement of the early twentieth century, hundreds of young women spend their days hard at work painting watch dials with glow-in-the-dark radium paint. The painters consider themselves lucky―until they start suffering from a mysterious illness. As the corporations try to cover up a shocking secret, these shining girls suddenly find themselves at the center of a deadly scandal.

The Radium Girls: Young Readers Edition tells the unbelievable true story of these incredible women, whose determination to fight back saved countless lives.

Review: This book has been on my radar for a while after hearing a number of people say how good it was. They were right; I was hooked right away, wanting to know what happens to the young women who worked in the radium painting studios. (Hint: it isn't pretty!)

This is a volume for young readers (think high school) so it's a quick read for adults. That worked well for me with this topic and I liked that the author made sure to explain events and ideas, some of which I didn't know about. And, while this topic is interesting, I don't think I could have handled a 400+ page book about it with the detail an adult book would have included. 

I had no idea that in the 1910s and 1920s radium was heralded as a health tonic! Radium was added to milk, cereal, and sold as supplements to give people energy and good health. Um... talk about getting it wrong! And even as scientists and medical personnel were becoming aware of the negative impacts, it certainly wasn't passed on to the general public, especially the girls working in the factories.

Moore does a good job at combining the facts of the girls' employment at a couple different companies (one in New Jersey and one in Illinois) and their personal journeys with radium illness. It's pretty gruesome and not easy to read about, but it is also inspiring as we read about how the girls and their families fought to be heard and made a difference for those of us who followed (think OSHA, safety signage and regulations, labor rights, and more).

Challenges for which this counts:  
  • Alphabet (Title)--R
  • Literary Escapes--France, New Jersey, Illinois
  • Nonfiction--Medical Memoir (though not a memoir, I am counting it)
  • Popsugar--social horror (does this count for that? I am not totally sure what a social horror is)

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