Title: North of Beautiful
Author: Justina Chen Headley
Age Group: YA
Publisher: Little Brown
Summary: Born with a port-wine stain birthmark covering her entire right cheek, Terra Rose Cooper is ready to leave her stifling, small Washington town where everyone knows her for her face. With her critical, reproachful father and an obese mother who turns to food to deflect her father's verbal attacks, home life for Terra isn't so great either. Fueled by her artistic desires, she plans to escape to an East Coast college, thinking this is her true path. When her father intercepts her acceptance letter, Terra is pushed off-course, and she is forced to confront her deepest insecurities. After an ironically fortuitous car accident, Terra meets Jacob, a handsome but odd goth Chinese boy who was adopted from China as a toddler. Jacob immediately understands Terra's battle with feeling different. When Terra's older brother invites her and her mother to visit him in Shanghai, Jacob and his mother also join them on their journey, where they all not only confront the truth about themselves, but also realize their own true beauty. North of Beautiful is the engaging third YA novel by Justina Chen Headley. This is a gorgeously-written, compelling book featuring universal themes of defining true beauty, family bonds, personal strength, and love.
Review: How am I suppose to tell in words how much I adored this book?
North of Beautiful is a raw book. That's how I'm describing it because it takes the things that people want to ignore and brings them into full focus. It takes the things that people today see as imperfections and showcases them as something to be proud of. Something that shouldn't make you feel any different from the millions of people around you.
Our main character Terra was born with a port-wine stain birthmark on her face and for her whole life she has seen it as a thing that made her incredible ugly. It doesn't help that her father in a complete jerk who acts as if a dictator of their family, and her mother takes all the insults and criticism her father spits out. At the beginning of the novel I was so incredibly frustrated with her mother and how she never stuck up for Terra or for anything her father said, because what he said was how it went. There was no other way.
Terra is an artist and though she doesn't think so at the beginning of the novel, she is a very good one. Though out the book I felt that art was a big part of the whole moral of the story. How people see things and what goes together. What makes something pretty and what destroys an image. Terra views it all as art.
I have to say that Terra and her mother are two very inspirational characters, especially her mother and I'm proud to say that she reminded me of my mother near the end of the novel. The character development was done so beautifully, page by page we saw a transformation from Terra Nullis to Terra Firma. This brings me to something I wanted to address and that's all the references to map making and navigation there was. There were quite a few times I found myself looking up the meaning of some of the things talked about out of pure curiosity.
Now there are two things that really made this novel for me. One of them was Jacob. Oh, how I loved Jacob! I want one for myself (hope that didn't sound creeper-ish). He really made the story not only for me but the impact he had on Terra was unbelievable. The romance between them felt real and passionate. Terra was like an unpredictable raging storm who at one moment could be shooting lightening with crashing waves and another a gentle sprinkle of rain. While Jacob was the gentle, peaceful sea that you just want to look out at while the sun is setting.
And then, we have the setting. The setting of a book could make or break it and where this story took me was far from where I've been before. China. We get to see the wonderful beauty of China. And yes I said beauty, because even if you've read that China is a dirty place in this book we are taught to look at it in a different way.
In a Nutshell: This book, I loved it so much. It touched my heart in so many ways. It made me smile and laugh and cry and question myself in so many ways. Am I beautiful? Yes. Yes, I am. And so are you. Who ever you are sitting there reading this: You. Are. Beautiful. Don't ever let yourself thing you aren't. You don't need to be a size one and have blond hair to be pretty. You are Beautiful the way you are and if anyone ever tells you otherwise, it is he/she who is showing their ugly side.
There is just one more thing I want to leave you with:
Jolie Laide. This phrase can pretty much sum up this whole book, but I won't tell you want it means. You'll have to read the book to find out. And I highly recommend you do. You will NOT regret it.
You can find Justina at her website.
You can purchase North of Beautiful on Amazon HERE.