Book Review: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley {Just Contemporary Review}

I read this book the first week in November for Just Contemporary {find out more about this event as well as more contemporary reviews and happenings HERE} and it so completely blew my mind that I added it to my favorites list.  I hope you enjoy my review and pick it up to read yourself if you haven’t already.  I really couldn’t recommend this book any more highly.
 North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
Hardcover, 373 pgs.
Published Feb. 1st, 2009 by Little, Brown
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Purchased

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.

We all have books that hit us profoundly.  Ones that may have us bursting into tears at random moments even when we’re not even reading the book just because we thought of something in the book that was so sad, or so amazing or just so perfect.  Books don’t have to be sad to make me cry.  And this was one of those books.  I cried a little in the first half, which was definitely darker and more full of bad things,  but cried lots in the second half which was full of discovery and more happier moments.  It was the discovery of them finding bits and pieces of themselves, of them remembering, of them discovering that really moved me to tears.  
This book is about Terra and Terra has a birthmark on the side of her face.  It’s big and purple and very very obvious.  She’s an expert at hiding.  Not only her face but from her father who is very verbally abusive. He’s a bully and he spends his time putting down his wife and his child and ordering them about to do his bidding.  He is cruel and he made me so so angry.  I felt so bad for Terra and almost even worse for her mother who had to deal with him even more.  This story is not only Terra’s, it is her mothers as well.  She’s completely lost herself and eats for comfort, resulting in lots of weight gain and a very low self esteem.  And her husband is constantly nagging at her and calling her names.  She feels like she has no choice but to stay with him and has no strength left to do anything else.  At least that’s what she thinks….
Terra and her mother run into Jacob and his mother {nearly quite literally} and this unexpected event created an unexpected friendship which leads their lives in completely unexpected directions.  This is a friendship {Jacob and Terra as well as Jacobs mother and Terra’s mother} that is certainly life changing.  And while Jacob has a bit of his own journey to embark on he becomes a rock for Terra.  He is more laid back and go with the flow while Terra is a planner and has to have things prepared ahead of time.  Jacob helps her in discovering what is important and what true beauty really is.  
All the characters in this book were amazing.  They all had their own journey’s of self discovery.  While it’s told from Terra we still watch what the others go through, especially her mother.  I actually loved how the author told it through Terra but still managed to do a fantastic job in making it about so much more then just her.  This is the kind of book that even adults who don’t read YA may enjoy, mothers especially. 
This is a book that resonates.  That really sticks with you.  Days, weeks, months, even years later you’ll remember bits and pieces of it and the wonderful messages that come through and it’ll give you just a little bit of strength to push you through whatever obstacle you may be facing at that time.  It reminds you about what beauty really is.  It gives you strength to pursue dreams you may have been afraid to go after.  It reminds you to follow your heart.  
This was a pretty clean read with little to no swearing, no sex {just a little kissing} and no physical violence {just verbal abuse but with no cursing}.   
This is a book that goes on my top 10 list.  Yes, I loved it that much.  Please, please, please do me a favor and read this book.  Tell your mothers, your sisters, your friends.  Tell the world, read this book.  

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  1. Like I said before on twitter I’m so glad you liked it!! Definitely one of my favourites. I’ve book talked it and everything, but for some reason I don’t have a review for it. I must re-read it sometime and write a proper review, because I basically want to promote it to everyone.

  2. Wow! With a review like that, I not only have to read it, but I want to read it right now. Logging in at the library next to request it. Thanks so much for letting us know about this one. I had not heard of it.

  3. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while. Now I am definitely going to have to pick it up! Your review is totally enabling my addiction right now! I must have this.

  4. Ashley, you should do a reread! It’s so amazing I’m sure you’ll love it just as much the second time around 😉

    roro, I’m lucky I live in the US as far as getting books goes but I still know what you mean, it’s so hard to decide which ones to actually get. I’m sure it’s way harder for you since you can’t get as many. In my opinion this is one you MUST get though. But it depends on how much you love contemporary.

    inluvwithwords and Jenny, yes, this is a MUST read! I can’t wait to see what you guys think!

  5. I have this one on my shelf waiting to be read! lol I’ve heard so many amazing things about it. I am definately gonna have to make some time for it! Your making amazing progress in your month of contemporary reads. Woo Hoo! I knew you could do it! :)

  6. I agree with you I loved the characters, and the journey they went on. I actually got this one from the library, but I ended up buying it because I liked it so much. I enjoyed the message in it.

  7. This review makes me so sad!! Because I read this one a while ago and while I did like it, I didn’t love it, didn’t really connect to it the way that I had expected to, or the way that so many others have. I liked it, and would like to own and reread it, but it didn’t resonate with me the way I had expected it too. :(

    Maybe a reread will give me that…

    But awesome review! SERIOUSLY awesome! I’m SO glad that you did connect with it so well! 😀

  8. Wow, this one sounds incredible! I haven’t heard too much about North of Beautiful (it probably got lost in the sea of paranormal YA), but it truly sounds like an astounding and inspiring read. This one’s going on my wishlist right now. Wonderful review, Candace :)

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