Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen

North of Beautiful 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:

North of Beautiful is a good story exploring family, friendship, and love.  It also works on defining what true beauty is.  The characters are well-developed, and the family relationship is well-done.


Terra is a good main character.  She thinks she isn't beautiful because she has a port-wine stain on her face.  Through the years, she has tried to have it removed by many different laser treatments, but none of them really worked.  She enjoys making collages, though her dad refuses to see that they are actually art.  She wants to go to Williams College and join their art program, but her dad wants her to go to Western Washington.  She feels like her birthmark makes her ugly, but as the book progresses, she realizes that isn't true.  She understands that she doesn't need to have a perfect body to make up for her birthmark.

The relationship between Terra and her family members is well-done.  Her dad is controlling and takes any opportunity to make her, and especially her mom, feel dad about themselves.  He often calls his wife fat to her face, and he belittles Terra's artistic abilities by saying it isn't actually art.  Terra also has two brothers, Merc and Claudius.  Merc is the oldest, and he has never brought a girlfriend home until he brings home Elisa.  The visit is disastrous, and Elisa breaks up with Merc because he doesn't defend Terra and his mother.  As the story progresses, Terra discovers that Claudius would always hurt himself on purpose to stop problems between their parents.

The relationships between Terra and the two guys in the book are well-done as well.  Erik is her boyfriend, and it is clear that he doesn't like her as much when her face isn't covered in makeup.  He is ashamed of her imperfections.  The other boy is Jacob.  He is Chinese, and was adopted by a woman named Norah.  Norah and Terra's mom become friends in the book.  Jacob likes Terra just the way she is.  The two of them go geocaching together.  Geocaching is a game that involves a GPS.  They become close, and I thought they made a very cute couple.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.



  1. North of Beautiful is very dear to my heart. I seriously love it. great review!

    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  2. Katie what a wonderful review. Love well developed characters.