Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Goodreads description:

Born with a port-wine stain birthmark covering her entire right cheek, Terra Rose Cooper is ready to leave her stifling, small Washington town where everyone knows her for her face. With her critical, reproachful father and an obese mother who turns to food to deflect her father's verbal attacks, home life for Terra isn't so great either. Fueled by her artistic desires, she plans to escape to an East Coast college, thinking this is her true path. When her father intercepts her acceptance letter, Terra is pushed off-course, and she is forced to confront her deepest insecurities. After an ironically fortuitous car accident, Terra meets Jacob, a handsome but odd goth Chinese boy who was adopted from China as a toddler. Jacob immediately understands Terra's battle with feeling different. When Terra's older brother invites her and her mother to visit him in Shanghai, Jacob and his mother also join them on their journey, where they all not only confront the truth about themselves, but also realize their own true beauty.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First off, I absolutely love this cover. Before reading it, I just thought it was pretty, but after reading about the meaning of the compass…wow. The cover is great.

I loved the writing from the first page on – it was beautiful and reminded me a lot of Sarah Dessen’s style. There’s just something about it that makes the words come to life.

The characters were great as well. Terra was extremely easy to relate to – who doesn’t have something about their looks they’re self-conscious about? Her low self-esteem was easy to understand and relate to for me, and I understood each of her feelings perfectly.

The other characters were just as unique and dimensional. I hated the dad as much as Terra, but also felt sorry for him at points. I also felt sorry for Terra’s mom – I wanted to shake her and make her leave her abusive husband, just like Terra. However, I thought the storyline dealing with the abuse was a bit overdramatic and used too much telling, not showing. The showing alone would have been enough to make the reader understand what’s going on, but the telling made it all a little melodramatic. The same goes for Terra’s brother’s storyline.

Another great character was Jacob – he was adorable! I loved how his past connected him to Terra, and their whole relationship was great. The whole Erik-Terra-Jacob love-triangle got on my nerves, though. I understand that Terra staying in a wrong relationship was necessary to portray her low self-esteem, and there wouldn’t have been all that much action if the author had left out that storyline, but I guess I’m just sick of love-triangles. That part of the novel seemed clichéd and too…constructed to fit the main plot perfectly, making Erik more of a plot-device than an actual character.

I really enjoyed the analogy of the maps, the compass, etc. – that fit the plot perfectly. It was also interesting to hear about Terra’s escape in art.

While it was interesting to hear about their trip to China to some extent, it was a bit too preachy, too go-visit-China-now! for me, and that took from the authenticity of Terra’s voice.

This is a book I would definitely recommend. The writing is beautiful and the characters are complex. While I had a few problems with it, the story and especially the ending are inspiring and really portray the definition of true beauty.


  1. Lovely review, Hannah :) This sounds like a book I might enjoy. I'm sick of love triangles, too, though!

  2. This book sounds so beautiful and emotional, the cover looks great too!

  3. Great review, I've had my eye on this one for a while. The title is just beautiful and from what I've read just now, Tara is easy to relate? Great storyline too!

  4. I should get reading this if it's like Sarah Dessen! The plot sounds like one that I'd eat up. Or read up. :)

  5. This sounds really beautiful and you make it sound so great. I'm going to have to add it to my list now. Thanks :)


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