Title: North of Beautiful
Author: Justina Chen Headley
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 1, 2009
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 is her unmistakably “flawed” face. Terra secretly plans to leave her small, stifling 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?
On one of my many trips to the bookstore, I decided to pick up North of Beautiful one day. I had heard a little about the book and it had only been good things. The cover and the summary caught my attention and I figured “why not?” With this decision I ended up reading a wonderful story that stayed with me long after it was over.
Until you look at her face, you would think that Terra has the perfect body. But then you get to her face and realize she has a red-stained birthmark that covers her cheek. Terra’s been plagued by this “imperfection” her entire life trying everything to get rid of it or to cover it up. But then she meets Jacob and everything starts to change. Terra’s whole life is turned upside down, with all these changes going on around her. It’s during a trip to China that everything really changes. There, and with the help of Jacob and their mothers, Terra starts to think of herself and her birthmark differently. And with all that, everyone has a new understanding of what it means to be beautiful.
I didn’t really know what to expect from this book. The synopsis didn’t really reveal much but it still made it sound like an interesting story. To be honest, it didn’t end up being anything like I expected. Terra’s situation was anything but easy. What originally just seemed to be an issue about physical appearance ends up being a life in an abusive household. Once I realized who Terra’s father was, I was able to better understand her and why she strived for perfection and wanted to leave her small town in the North West. Despite the abusive situation which you would think would be everything the story is about but it somehow circles back to image and physical appearance. In the end, it’s a story about finding your own inner and outer beauty and learning to accept yourself.
I absolutely loved seeing all the different relationships evolve and develop. Almost from the beginning I could see that the relationship between Jacob and Terra was going to go somewhere. Even though Terra seemed to be stuck on her boyfriend, I could tell that she really cared about Jacob and Jacob really cared about her. The relationship I loved seeing the most was the one between Terra and her mother. She went from being embarrassed and feeling sorry for her mother to being proud of her and wanting nothing but the best for her. And of course the relationship between the two mothers just had me laughing most of the time, the dynamic between the two of them was just too funny. Everyone grew and learned to accept themselves and each other.
North of Beautiful was a story about beauty, inner and outer, and about learning to accept yourself in spite of all the imperfections that are a part of life. Justina Chen Headley wrote a story that really got me thinking about all those moments when I doubt myself and realized that those are part of what makes me who I am.