Thursday, September 4, 2014

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen
Available Now
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Paperback 384 pages
To Buy- Amazon/ Kindle/ BN

Goodreads-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.


This novel has been calling to me for a while, so I finally picked it up. It is a beautiful book told through the eyes and emotions of Terra Cooper a girl emotionally abused by her father, not just because of the large port wine birthmark on her face, but also because that's him. He terrorizes the entire family, holding them hostage to his perfect ideals and demands. In turns, her older brothers and then her stand as a buffer between her father and mother, always waiting for the physical abuse. They all cower under the weight of his abuse.

But then, purely by chance, Terra meets Jacob who has an imperfection of his own and is incredibly unselfconscious about it. He slowly changes Terra's way of seeing herself over Christmas break. To see someone that doesn't balk at her birthmark, that actually prefers her without her pancake makeup on, it's so unbelievable to Terra. Meeting Jacob and his mother sets off a chain of events that changes the lives of everyone in Terra's household including her father's. Terra defines beauty in a different way now. And her opinion about herself comes less from what others think about her and more from what she thinks of herself.

It's a great lesson. Believing that you are beautiful despite the flaws you see in yourself when you look in the mirror. Seeing the good things about yourself instead of the bad things when you look. It's easier if you don't have the huge birthmark that Terra has, and yet, I think we still see our flaws first when we look in the mirror. That tape plays telling us we're ugly, remembering a boy, a girl, a parent, a relative that told you how ugly you were. Ideally, we could learn our lesson from Terra and develop a thick skin. Forget the past hurts and move on. Ideally. But take it one step at a time and keep her in your mind. There is some truth in fiction, however small. I plan to be looking for the positives rather than the negative thanks to Terra and Jacob.

This novel is beautifully written, the emotions raw and painful. You can feel the hurt with each insult and  unspoken word. I know emotional abuse and it is like walking on eggshells, trying to be on that fine line between pleasing and perfect. One wrong wobble and the insults and barrage of anger begins. All the negative seeps into your soul and getting rid of it is next to impossible.

I hope that North Of Beautiful sheds some light on this problem. It's the kind of abuse one can't see and yet it's as damaging as physically hitting someone. And Justina Chen does a beautiful job of laying the story out to u slowly until we are sure of what is going on.

I highly recommend this novel for lovers of comtemporary literature.


  1. This sounds lovely! Thanks for the great review!

  2. I've had this on my reading list for a very long time. I think I will have to bump it up more on my reading queue. I love the self-discovery journey along with a romance in a novel so long as the romance doesn't become the sole focus. Lovely review, Heather!

  3. I too loved the emotional impact, the message and the characterization

  4. What an impactful and emotional read and I love the beautiful messages the author has to impart. I will remember this one. Thanks for the lovely review, Heather.

  5. Great review, Heather! This is next on my list!

  6. I LOVED North of Beautiful (and that surprised me as generally it is not my first pick for a genre). I'm happy to see you loved it too Heather! :)

  7. I absolutely loved this one too, Heather! I just finished Chen's latest--wasn't as big a fan of that as I was of this--but this novel was simply incredible. So glad you enjoyed it too, dear, and I loove your review! :)


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