Sunday 11 July 2010

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Review: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen HeadleyNorth of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley - 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.
From Amazon US

I am sitting here now quite literally speechless. As I type this, I have just finished this book, and I have tears in my eyes over just how wonderfully uplifting it was. North of Beautiful is just magical in how beautiful this story is in itself. I am just completely bowled over by how completely... light and hopeful this book has left me feeling. I am well and truly wowed.

Terra was born with a port-wine stain birthmark that covers most of her right cheek. For most of her life she has undergone different laser surgery treatments to try to remove it, been on the receiving end of her father's disgust, and her mother's hope that one day she will be beautiful one day. Her self-esteem is just so low. She covers up with thick layers of make-up, is with a so-so guy because she doesn't believe she'd be able to get anyone else, and tries hard to be invisible.

'For all adults go on and on about beauty being skin deep, let's be honest here. When your dermis is filled with rogue bloodvessels that have been herded under the thin skin of your face, you get mighty suspicious whenever anyone mentions anything that sounds remotely like Inner Beauty.' (p13)

Her father is controlling beyond belief. I think labelling him a "bully" would be more accurate. He dictates everything in the house. Her mother has become this frail woman who comfort eats because of how unhappy Terra's father makes her. He snipes at every little thing. He is lord and master in his house, and no-one will dare have an opinion that's different from his, nor will get away with being less than perfect, or fulfill dreams he feels aren't good enough. All anyone wants is escape.

'"When are you going to accept that nothing you do will make you look normal?"...
"You know," he mused, "I've seen run-over deer look better than you."' (p87)

Which comes in the chance meeting with Jacob, in the the literal and metaphorical sense. Jacob sees Terra. He gets her so completely. He brings up things she keeps buried. And with his cleft-lip scar, he understands how Terra feels about her birthmark, yet sees only a beautiful girl. It takes a trip to China with her mother, Jacob and his mother, Norah, and the experiences she has over there to finally start seeing herself for the beautiful girl she is.

There are so many passages I could pull out and share with you, but this review would go on forever, and I can't choose. I really can't do this book justice. It is absolutely amazing to go along with Terra on her journey to self-acceptance. As I said, this story is just beautiful, and some of the passages in it are just so touching. It's hard to read a book like this and not reflect on yourself, and it's just left me feeling so... good about myself. I was completely unprepared for how finishing this book has made me feel, but it's absolutely wonderful! I challenge anyone to finish this book, and not feel good about themselves afterwards.

This is a book every girl should read! I'm not saying boys shouldn't, but I do feel it would touch girls more. I can't recommend this book enough. An unbelievably powerful and wonderful book, another one to add to my list of favourites.

Published: 17th February 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Buy on Amazon UK
Buy on Amazon US
Justina Chen Headley's website


  1. This sounds fantastic, Jo. And perfect for BISP month!

  2. Brilliant review. I really want to read this!

  3. Wow, I can see how much this book moved you. I hope this gets a UK release because it sounds like it deserves it.

  4. Sophie - Thank you! I know, it's just brilliant! And such an amazing book!

    Julianne - Thank you! Oh, it's amazing! I'm sure you'd love it as you liked Girl Overboard.

    Becky - Oh, it so does! It was just incredible! Everyone should read it!

  5. What a great review! I checked our library and it's on the shelf --- going to grab it today!! :)

  6. Great review! I'm waiting for my little sister to finish it (she's been reding it for months now--I might just take it under her nose) and then I'll read it. Thank you!

  7. Jo - Thank you! Oh awesome! I hope you enjoy it!

    Patty - Thank you! Ohhh, awesome! Steaaal! Lol. I hope you enjoy it!

  8. Awesome review! This was such a good book.

  9. Thank you! I absolutely loved it! It was just brilliant!