3 reviews

The Atomic City Girls: A Novel
by Janet Beard

Published: 2018-02-06
Paperback : 384 pages
19 members reading this now
31 clubs reading this now
4 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 3 members

“Focuses on the little-known realities behind the Manhattan Project […] Readers who enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls will appreciate this glimpse into the beliefs and attitudes that shaped America during World War II.”— Library Journal

An Internationally bestselling ...

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“Focuses on the little-known realities behind the Manhattan Project […] Readers who enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls will appreciate this glimpse into the beliefs and attitudes that shaped America during World War II.”— Library Journal

An Internationally bestselling novel

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

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.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. 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.

"The Atomic City Girls is a fascinating and compelling novel about a little-known piece of WWII history."—Maggie Leffler, international bestselling author (Globe and Mail) of The Secrets of Flight


Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter 1
November 1944
The bus to Oak Ridge was packed with other girls June’s age, along with a few soldiers and laborers in the back. June had sat in the front by a window to watch the farms and trees pass by, but nerves kept forcing her to look around. The recruiter in Knoxville had pointed the bus out to her, yet she was terrified that she’d gotten on the wrong one. None of the buses in and out of Oak Ridge were labeled because officially the city didn’t exist. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Both June and Sam violate the Army’s rules by sharing top-secret information about the Manhattan Project. Do you think their actions are justified? Is Cici justified in reporting June to the Army?

2. Joe warns Ralph against his political activism because he thinks it’s useless and dangerous. Ralph does help affect change but becomes a victim of violence. Are the risks he takes too great? Do you think Joe still feels the same way in the end?

3. In the epilogue, June struggles to explain to her children that “different times call for different actions.” Do you think that’s true? Were June and Sam doing the right thing by working on the Manhattan Project during the war?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "The Atomic City Girls"by Tracy I. (see profile) 11/05/18

Our club really enjoyed reading this book! It was very interesting to discover part of history so rarely discussed.

by Kelly J. (see profile) 08/02/23

While the subject matter was interesting, the plot was extremely flat and boring. Waited all book for a peak and the only climax was a minor part of the book. Could’ve done so much more with a historical... (read more)

by Kerri S. (see profile) 12/06/19

by renee d. (see profile) 06/09/19

by Maureen K. (see profile) 06/01/19

by Melissa L. (see profile) 04/16/19

Learned a lot of history that I did not know.

by Tina D. (see profile) 02/24/19

by Christie C. (see profile) 02/23/19

by sarah E. (see profile) 02/02/19

  "YA, Rather Than Adult, Novel"by ELIZABETH V. (see profile) 01/26/19

THE ATOMIC CITY GIRLS is not for me, and that is why I give it only three stars. However, it is very good and deserves all the praise it has received for readers of young adult novels, be th... (read more)

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