North Of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
North of Beautiful takes the reader on a series of journeys: a journey to discover one's beauty behind all the flaws; the journey to escape from the claws of a controlling man; and the journey to discover who and how to love.
Terra's life is defined by two things: her face and her father. At first glance, Terra is beautiful. Thin, blonde hair, blue eyes, symmetrical features, but one side of her face is marred by a large purple birthmark. She hides her face under layers of make-up and attempts laser surgery to remove the birthmark. The rest of her life is ruled by her father. He's a monster. The summary describes him as "controlling." That is quite an understatement - horribly verbally abusive is more fitting. He alone made the book hard to read at times. I almost would have preferred that he hit Terra and her mother as opposed to his little comments. It would be hard to survive in that world.
Terra and her mother's lives are changed by a chance meeting with Jacob and his mother. Both are kind, generous, and brimming with confidence (on the surface) and make it their mission to bring Terra and her mother to life. I love Jacob. He's one of the best guy characters I've read in awhile. At first, you think he's going to be a "bad boy" love interest given his goth wardrobe. But he's not at all. He's a sweet kid who hides under black clothes and white makeup. He's smart, thoughtful, kind, and accepting. Exactly the type of boy all girls deserve. I also love how Jacob and Terra's relationship builds. Although there's some initial attraction on both sides, it's a slow and steady development. They don't declare undying love for one another after one afternoon together. They get to know and accept each other.
I loved North of Beautiful. It was, at times, hard to read. Terra's father is truly terrifying, and the effects on her entire family are large and long-lasting. Also, Terra, while being a wonderful girl, is not immune from making mistakes. I understood why she made them, but still wanted to shake her occasionally. My only significant complaint is that the ending felt a little too clean. I highly recommend this book when you're looking for a beautiful, smart, contemporary read. Just don't read it if you're not in the mood to be a little depressed.
Rating: 4.5 / 5