Title: North of Beautiful
Author: Justina Chen Headley
Published: February 1, 2009
Page Count: 384
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
My Rating: 5/5
It’s hard not to notice Terra Cooper.
She’s tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably “flawed” face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob’s path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?
Written in lively, artful prose, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley has woven together a powerful novel about a fractured family, falling in love, travel, and the meaning of true beauty.
Going into North of Beautiful, I assumed it would be a decent YA book, but nothing special – great characters, an interesting plot, and good writing – a book that I would like but not love.
Well, I was way wrong about that. This book was beyond fantastic. And I LOVED it. North of Beautiful got to me, it really did. First of all, I have to say that I saw a lot of myself in Terra, so that is definitely one of the reasons I fell in love with the book so much. Growing up, my father had a similar personality to Terra’s father, and as a result (of that and other things, too) I had little to no self-esteem for most of my childhood/teen years. So when I say I got her, I REALLY got her – I saw so many of my thoughts, feelings and even behaviors as a teen mirrored in Terra. It was hard to read, because I so related to her, but it was also a great experience for me because I truly felt like I was right there with Terra – both in her physical journey to China and in her personal journey to self-discovery.
Okay, let’s talk about the book itself. First, the story. I loved where Justina Chen Headley took the plot – China!! How fun is that? I have never been to China, but it’s clear that Chen Headley has – the descriptions of the sights, smells, and sounds of Shanghai were just too perfect for her not to have experienced it herself. I loved reading about all the places they visited and even though the China trip was a huge part of the book it didn’t detract in any way to the more intimate plot lines of Terra and her mother’s relationship, and Terra’s newly forming relationship with Jacob.
Speaking of relationships, that is the other fabulous thing about North of Beautiful. What I usually love most about YA books are the relationships between the characters, both romantic and otherwise. This novel was no exception to that. I loved following along with Terra and Jacob’s blossoming romance, it was so perfectly written that I easily went back to the days of crushes, when just spending a few minutes in that person’s presence could put a smile on your face for the entire day. And Jacob was just such a sweet, wonderful guy – he obviously cared about Terra and wanted to be with her, but never laid it on too thick or pushed her to be more than friends before she was ready. And, really, just reading about their freindship was nice – they were just so CUTE together! I also enjoyed reading about Terra and her mother’s relationship, especially once they got to China. Without getting into too much detail, before the China trip Terra didn’t have much respect for her mother. But once they started breaking down the walls between them and really getting to know each other without the presence of her father, they became such a close mother/daughter pair and really, it was so heartwarming to read about.
North of Beautiful is truly an amazing book. I loved it, and I think it’s a must-read for YA fans. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for more of Justina Chen Headley’s books – she has written her way into my heart with these characters and this wonderful story.
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