Review - North Of Beautiful by Justina Chen

Pages: 373 pages
Published: February 1st 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 6th 2009)
ISBN: 0316025054 (ISBN13: 9780316025058)
Edition language: English
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Chick-lit, Travel



Goodreads synopsis

 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.

North of Beautiful took me by surprise. I settled into it thinking it would be a light read that I could relax into.
I was so, so wrong. 

This novel is about a beautiful girl with only one thing that mars her envious features - a port-wine stain. She belongs to a family that externally looks normal, but internally, it's falling apart. Terra's dad, who's in the field of cartography, is the harsh, austere, controlling sort - I honestly hated him more than stale cookies. Her mother has lost her confidence through the years, and takes refuge from her husband's daggers of words in a high-carb diet. The result - her husband regularly snipes at her about her weight, comparing her with other women, and feeling ashamed to be seen with her in public places.

How can you not hate someone like that? Someone who wants - no, needs - to play the fist in your life, controlling every aspect, every nook?

Then comes the turning point of everything - the beginning of change: Terra and her mother agree to go on a trip to China with Jacob, a too-cool dude whom she nearly kills in a car accident, and his mum, the complete opposite of Terra's mum. 

Their trip is well-crafted; I really felt as though I was travelling with them myself. And the trip changes Terra's concepts, changes her mother's concepts, and they return home refreshed, ready to tackle the world, ready to realise that they, and not Terra's dad, were in charge of their own fate. 

Probably the most beautiful part of the novel, apart from the moral behind the plot, is the style of Justina Chen's writing. It's exquisite. It's beautiful. There's nothing in the way she writes that you can't admire. When I started off with reading the book, I thought all the cartographic analogies were just present to beautify the content, and would have no impact on the story.

Wrong again.

Those mapping figures of speech were so brilliantly incorporated, I couldn't believe it. The way Justina compares us and our lives to cartography is something to be toasted and applauded.  You'll understand what I mean when you read the book, because you can't say no to it. You just can't.

Here are a couple of quotes from the book. I love these, because they contain those cartographic references I mentioned earlier, and also because they are so beautifully written.
“Beauty--real everlasting beauty--lives not on our faces, but in our attitude and our actions. It lives in what we do for ourselves and for others.”
What a deep message, right? 
“Maybe getting around in life was nothing but map-reading. A skill that required practice. A key to unlock where you wanted to go. A legend to show where you were.” 
So, so true. 

And lastly,
“Physical beauty wasn't the same as True Beauty, any more than pretty ugly meant truly ugly or Magnetic North meant True North.” 
I love this one. Truly. 


CJ alhafiz said...

I like a book that left you with something to learn once you finished it. Good review..=)

I'm a new follower, nice to meet you Erfa.

CJ @ CoffeeNCrackers
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Erfa Tahir said...

Hi CJ!
Thanks so much for the follow! I appreciate it a lot! Nice to meet you too!
Hey, I left a couple of comments on your latest post and the Jodi Picoult review!


Keertana said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! It took me completely by surprise and your review is simply BEAUTIFUL! :D

Erfa Tahir said...

Hi Keertana!
First of all, thank you SO so SO very much for that review compliment! It truly means a lot to me! :D
North of Beautiful is seriously a novel everyone should read. It's nothing short of beautiful.
Have a great day! Thanks for dropping a comment!


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