Title: North of Beautiful
Author: Justina Chen Headley
Release Date: February 1, 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Genre: Teen, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
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.
I’d heard good things about Justina Chen Headley’s newest book North of Beautiful, but I have to say that I wasn’t prepared for it. When I opened the first pages, I had no idea how powerful it would be, how it would bring tears to my eyes. I didn’t know how invested I would become in the storyline, how I would frantically read, trying to use my will alone to help Terra and her mother. It’s these books that are the best, the ones that sneak up on you and surprise you with how amazing they are.
North of Beautiful was an incredible read. First of all, there are the characters. Terra was a complicated, layered individual who was used to hiding. She lived in her shell, in her safe zone behind a thick layer of makeup until she met Jacob, who challenged her to be herself. Jacob, on the other hand, was damaged and insecure in his own way, though he appeared to be confident on the surface. However, he never tried to hide himself, like Terra did. But just as Jacob challenged Terra, in many ways, Terra returned the favor for Jacob. They’re both excellently drawn characters who are very three-dimensional. I’m not sure how Headley breathed such vibrant life into these characters, but it’s a talent she should never let go of.
I loved the entire premise of being pushed outside of your safe zone. It’s something that doesn’t happen enough for many of us. It’s very easy to stay at home, in your comfort zone, in control of everything. I liked how Terra and her mother kept getting pushed, as well as how they responded to it.
North of Beautiful was also an emotional read; I could often feel Terra’s pain. I had to blink back tears more than once, and sometimes I just had to stop reading and reflect on what was currently happening. I also felt a constant anger towards Terra’s father. The pain he inflicted on his family due to his own insecurity was searing and difficult to stand. This is a testament to Justina Chen Headley’s writing ability; it’s very difficult to affect your reader’s emotions without coming across as cliched or cheesy. Headley’s writing is nothing but sincere and there is nothing cheesy about the book. It’s a beautiful story that I can’t recommend highly enough.
Though North of Beautiful is a young adult/teen read, I think that readers of all ages will find something to love in this gorgeously written novel. It’s longer than most teen novels, but the pages fly by quickly. It’s so worth it to immerse yourself in Justina Chen Headley’s amazing book – my only regret is that the book ended.