North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

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. North of Beautiful is the engaging third YA novel by Justina Chen Headley. This is a gorgeously-written, compelling book featuring universal themes of defining true beauty, family bonds, personal strength, and love.

Why did you write North of Beautiful?
JCH: To tell you the truth, I was sick of our society glamorizing a really narrow definition of beauty: blonde, size 00. You know. A chance comment from an acquaintance whose son has a port wine stain completely inspired the book. When I was lauding her parenting because he’s such a confident, cool kid, she stopped me and said, “That’s because he’s a boy…” There it was, my next novel. What if a girl had a birthmark on her face? Could I tackle the notion of real beauty–true glorious beauty–with this character?
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley is a well written, thought provoking book with a great message. I really enjoyed reading this coming of age story. It is a journey of self discovery, learning what is important in life and finding out what true beauty really is. A very memorable book delving into the complexity of self-esteem, family, abuse and relationships. Loved the way maps & geocaching were incorporated into the story. If you can handle the content issues mentioned below I highly recommend this book.
Content: This is not a clean read. There is a lot of mild language throughout the entire book. There is also some sexual content & innuendo. Terra allows her boyfriend’s hands to wander. Although there are no graphic details given we know she has slept with him. Recommended for ages 16+.
Rating: 4 Stars to this touching, beautiful book.