North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Published By: Little, Brown Young Readers

Date of Publication: February 1, 2009

Categories:Contemporary, Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 373

Summary (from

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.

Review: Being a teenager is tough. Or at least it was for me. I remember always feeling insecure about how I looked. There were so many changes happening with my body, that some days it didn’t even seem like it belonged to me. I can’t imagine what it would have felt like to have a birthmark 0n your face that is the first thing that people see when they look at you. But that’s what Terra lives with, the main character in North of Beautiful.

One of the great things about this novel is the characters that Justina Chen Headley creates. I immediately felt connected to Terra. She felt so real to me, like she could have been a close friend. Even her dad (who I really REALLY didn’t like) felt very genuine. And I think that it would have been very easy to have him not change at all through the book, but at the very end, you saw little changes in him, and it made me dislike him a little less.

There are quite a few story lines in this book, but instead of making it feel confusing or crowded, I felt it added depth and interest. It’s a tough line to walk, but I think the author did a great job. Quite a few of them revolved around Terra’s family, and I thought it made them feel more real, like they could be your own family instead of just characters in a book.

Justina Chen Headley’s writing is top notch as well. It flows well, keeping you interested while still adding in descriptions that make you feel like you’re right there with the characters, no matter where they are (at home or in China). Having the theme of maps throughout the book really pulled it all together and made it feel unified.

North of Beautiful definitely makes you re-think your definition of beauty, a thing I think we all need to do every once in awhile.


Disclosure: I got this book from the library.


2 thoughts on “North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

  1. Pingback: The Month in Review: April 2011 « Geeky Reads Blog

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