Book Review: The Atomic City Girls

Author: Janet Beard

Pages: 353

Gooreads Synopsis:In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself. “

Review: I really enjoyed this story and it was exactly what I needed with the book slump I had been in back in March. I really liked June, a young woman who had so much character development in this story that I was so astonished by June. But Sam was also a character that I enjoyed because of how difficult he was and how many highs and lows he was, he was smart but was struggling with what that might mean for the war effort and I found it very interesting and complex. While Joe was a sweet heart and Cici I just could not stand from the very beginning.


Other than describing the characters, this was a really quick and informational read about the Manhattan Project something that I’m not sure I learned about in school. Of course I knew about Hiroshima but I don’t think I ever put together what that meant for the people who helped to build an atomic bomb. It had me more interested in understanding Oak Ridge and what it meant as well as all the events that lead up the bombing (it’s been awhile since I’ve been in school).

I always know when a story is intriguing when I end up researching the historical significance at the same time as reading the story. I really loved the different reactions these characters had on the Manhattan Project and what it meant for the world.

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

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