Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review: North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful
 by Justina Chen Headley
Published February 1st 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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.  --goodreads

Rating: 4.5/5
                 I feel like this book has been out forever, and I actually remember going to the bookstore or the library and just passing this book thinking, oh, nah doesn’t really sound that good…
I must have been crazy or something because I absolutely LOVED this book! I can’t believe I was missing out on something so great all these years…
                Anyways, what really made this book stand out for me was the theme of maps and compasses. Yes, other books also have unique themes, some kind of gimmick, and they might mention said theme in the title or at the beginning or end of the book, but North of Beautiful? In this book, the theme is SO prevalent in every. Single. Chapter. Some people might not like the constant cartographical references, but I thought it was really cool, and the way the author connected it all to Terra’s life was impeccable. It really made the book unforgettable.
                 And the characters! Oh. My goodness. I was addicted to these characters! Oh wait, I was addicted to this book in general…but still! Headley does a great job crafting complex and realistic characters, as well as the personal journey they each go on in the book to somehow rediscover themselves. The different relationships, especially the one between Terra and her mom, and Terra and Jacob were so incredibly well developed as well. Oh Jacob… *sighs and smiles dreamily*--seriously. Can we please have more guys like that in real life??
                The one character I actually hated (with a passion!) was Terra’s dad—honestly, he could easily make my list of evilest book characters. It seemed that every time he opened his mouth, I was calling him a bleeping bleep bleep in my head! I was really, really glad when Terra and her mom finally stood up for themselves, but I seriously wished she could have done it sooner!
                The funny thing is, if you think about it, the plot of this novel is kind of farfetched, yet Headley did an indescribably fantastic job at making it realistic—so kudos on that! I loved the fact that she included China in this novel—not that I’m sick of American and European destinations, but come on, there are other countries in the world!
               All in all, this book was absolutely astounding—so much that I couldn’t get it out of my head and made me reluctant to start a new book! Needless to say, I had to head out and buy my own copy the next day. I would highly recommend this book to well, everyone because it not only has great plot, gimmick, characters, and development, but the overall message of what is beauty? Is quite inspirational.   

“My confidence was of the hothouse variety, carefully cultivated under highly regulated conditions. One wrong look, one mean comment, and my facade would wither.”
 “You know, there are easier ways to meet a guy than to run him over.” 

“Teachers wondered why I didn't speak up more in class. Why would I when I knew how precarious words could be, how betraying they were, how vulnerable they made you?” 

"You really have so much talent. Jolie laide," she said.
"It's a French term."
I blushed, remembered how Dad had flung it at me. "I know. 'Pretty ugly.'"
"I suppose in the strictest translation that's what it means." She set the collage on a chair, upholstered in a leopard print, then took a few steps away and cocked her head. Finally, she explained, "This isn't actually beautiful; it says too many hard things for it to be beautiful in the traditional sense." She took a step closer. "And yet it draws you to it. And when I close my eyes"--she did so now--"I can still see the image, as if it has bored into me here--she pointed to her heart--"and here"--she touched her head. And then opening her eyes, she turned to me. "that is jolie laide."

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