Book Review - Radiant Girl

Radiant Girl by Andrea White, Bright Sky Press, 2008

Radiant Girl, a coming-of-age children's book by author Andrea White, is the fictional account of Katya Dubko, an 11-year old girl who lives in Yanov, a village located very near to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

On the evening of April 25, 1986, while Katya's family is preparing for her eleventh birthday celebration, she wanders into the nearby woods and meets a mysterious boy named Vasyl, who tells her that her world will be destroyed by an explosion. In the early morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explodes, throwing Katya's young life into a tailspin.

Katya's father Ivan is an upstanding supporter of the Soviet Union's Communist Party and refuses to accept the seriousness of the situation caused by the Chernobyl accident.

Following the accident, Katya must contend with:

  • The evacuation of her small village to Kyiv
  • Moving to a new town (Slavutych)
  • Various family health concerns
  • Volatile friendships
  • Her overly-patriotic father, who works at the Chernobyl Plant
Over the next four years, Katya searches for answers about Vasyl, the Chernobyl accident and radiation, all while continuing to struggle with her past. It takes events during a school field trip for Katya to finally come to terms with her past and find a way to move ahead with her life.

This is a children's book, yet is still an enjoyable read for adults. The author did a wonderful job weaving fantasy and historically accurate details together to provide readers with insights into the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident and its affects on the residents of what is now known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

If you are like me and know a lot about the Chernobyl accident and the Exclusion Zone, you will notice a few inaccuracies scattered throughout the story. I know the author conducted extensive research for this story to be as accurate as possible (I have personally seen some of her notes), therefore I assume these inaccuracies are due to poetic license and didn't let them bother me, at least not too much.

My only criticism about Radiant Girl is that I wanted more details - maybe 50-60 pages more. Of course, that may just be me and my complete obsession with everything about Chernobyl and my constant search for more information and details.

Overall, this is an educational, emotional and haunting story that I enjoyed very much. If I did not have other things to do, I could have easily finished this book in one day. If you have not yet read Radiant Girl, get it as soon as possible. I highly recommend it.