Title: North of Beautiful
Book #: N/A
Author: Justina Chen Headley
Reading Level: Young Adult
"To dream, you need to starve doubt, feed hope."
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.
I really, really enjoyed this book. After finishing it, I had to sit and think for a while. It leaves you with such a hopeful, beautiful feeling. I learned the true definition of beauty from this wonderful novel.
The characters are like new shoes- you have to break them in before you feel comfortable with them. By the middle of the book, I had bonded not only with Terra but also with Jacob, her Chinese friend, and the other major characters. Terra is a kindhearted yet lost girl. I enjoyed watching her transformation from a girl who is ashamed of her own face to a girl with the entire world at her feet. Yes, she does make some mistakes that make you shake your head and wonder, but in the end, she pulls her life together and starts down a new path.
Headley writes with an ease that I envy. Her thoughts just seem to flow onto the page so smoothly. I could easily relate to the characters, and the pictures Headley paints are breathtaking. I never had an interest in visiting China before, but after reading this novel, I wish I was there right now. As a matter of fact, I feel like I have been there.
I can definitely say that I will be recommending this book to many others. It is a strong tale of self-discovery and love that I will always remember.