Friday, December 27, 2013

North of Beautiful

Justina Chen Headley
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reviewed by:  Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You're the one who asked-and I repeat-Why not fix your face?

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.

My Review

Terra Cooper is blonde, beautiful, a talented artist, and dating a popular and athletic boy. She has everything going for her, or does she?

Well, she has one physical flaw, a port-wine stain birthmark in the shape of Bhutan on her right cheek. Along with her daily exercise regimen, Terra skillfully applies an assortment of cosmetics and moisturizers to conceal the red stain that brings her shame.

She lives in a small, boring town in Washington, has a father who is controlling and overly critical, and a mother who is overweight and passive. She wants to escape by attending a college far from home. When she gets accepted, her plans are thwarted by her father.

While Terra and her mom are in Seattle for laser treatment to lighten her birthmark, they get into a minor collision and Terra meets Jacob, a handsome Chinese boy with a propensity for black clothing and a physical imperfection.

Terra and her mom and Jacob and his mom decide to travel to China. Terra and her mom will be visiting Merc, Terra’s older brother now living and working in China. Jacob and his mom will be visiting the orphanage he lived in. Freed at last from her father’s biting comments and in a country where language, culture and customs are unlike anything she’s ever known, Terra reconnects with her mom, grows, changes, and learns new ways of being in the world. She gradually gains self-confidence, learns to accept herself, and becomes more open to life’s possibilities.

This book was truly a joy to read. It is beautifully written, thought-provoking, sometimes sad, and ultimately uplifting. The characters were realistic, complex and well-developed with all their imperfections. The maps, geocaching sites, geographic details and cartographic information were all fascinating.

Also posted at Goodreads.

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