Review: North of Beautiful

  • Author: Justina Chen Headley
  • Published: January 6, 2009
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Reading Level: Young Adult
  • Pages: 373 pages (hardcover)
  • Source: Bought
 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.

~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This is one of those books that had a bunch of decent plot elements that could have been combined to make an amazing story, but instead they weren't truly fleshed out and connected properly and they produced a rather disappointing book with a lot of things that you may like if they were executed different.

I don't believe any of the characters were truly fleshed out completely. I felt as if they were missing a lot of information and at times I had trouble dealing with Terra's insecurities. She made it a point repeatedly to say that she has a gorgeous body, but none of that matters because of the birthmark that covers half her face. She's tried to get rid of it for a majority of her life and she has to learn to accept herself as beautiful even though she has it. Terra's entire family is dysfunctional thanks to a failed cartography mission on her Dad's part. The "abuse" her mother endures, the way all of her brothers and everyone in the family act is just odd at times. The one redeeming character, in my opinion, was Jacob. I loved him compared to all of the other characters, but even then I felt as if there were a lot of loose ends with him. I couldn't really connect with any of them.

A lot of the story focuses on art and the point that I got really sick of cartography. We were reminded about one thing or another every few pages. It was a little annoying and took away from the substance because of the repetition. I originally thought this was a unique twist and it slowly spiraled out of control as the story progressed. Points for originality, though.

With all of this being said, I value the overall moral of the story which is that beauty is what's on the inside, not just the outside. Somewhere out there, someone will always love you for you. Then again, I believe this is a common moral among young adult literature and I don't think anybody needs to read this book to be enlightened. While I didn't hate this story, I wouldn't recommend it if you're looking to deeply connect with a character. It's interesting at times, but I didn't feel any deep emotions at all for it.


I do enjoy this cover. I couldn't tell you why, but it's very simple and pretty. The girl, who I'm assuming is Terra, is shy and hiding her birthmark from the rest of the world with her hair. It's just a really nice cover that hints at the story within its pages. The compass is a nice touch too, since there's an emphasis on cartography in the novel.


 2.5 stars


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