North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful

4.4 351
by Justina Chen Headley
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Laced with metaphors about maps and treasure, Headley's (Girl Overboard) finely crafted novel traces a teen's uncharted quest to find beauty. Two things block Terra's happiness: a port-wine stain on her face and her verbally abusive father, a failed cartographer who views her as ugly and belittles the collages she creates. A car accident brings her together with Jacob, an Asian-born adoptee with unconventional ideas. Besides introducing her to new pursuits like geocaching, a treasure-hunting game using GPS, Jacob ends up traveling with her when they have an opportunity to visit China together with their mothers. The trip, far-reaching on many different levels, gives Terra a chance to rethink the past and re-map her goals. Taking readers to America's Northwest, then to China and back again, the author confidently addresses very large, slippery questions about the meaning of art, travel, love and of course beauty. All of her characters hold secrets; finding them out will be as rewarding as Terra's discoveries of caches. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)

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Children's Literature - Kathryn Erskine
The daughter of a discredited and embittered map expert and a browbeaten mother, Terra tries to disappear in her art. Specifically, she tries to avoid confrontation with the oppressive father who is limiting her college, travel, and life choices. The prominent birthmark on her face makes escaping notice even more appealing. Her mother drags her for one final try at burning off her birthmark, but on the way, the two are involved in an accident. As a result, they fortuitously meet a mother and her adopted son, Jacob, who has a reason to feel as much an outcast as Terra does. Although the accident raises arguments between her parents about money and other issues, Terra feels (correctly) that this event will have a positive impact on their lives. Jacob and his mother eventually lead them to China, empower her mother to stand up for herself, and bring Terra to the point where she has to stand up and stand out. Like the novel itself, Terra's journey is divided into three sections—terra nullis (empty land), terra incognita (unknown land) and terra firma (solid ground). Map terminology is prevalent throughout and nicely parallels Terra's finding her place in the world. An intelligent and multi-layered book, teens will find this a very satisfying read. Reviewer: Kathryn Erskine
VOYA - Mary Arnold
Is beauty only skin deep? Terra has been camouflaging her port wine stain her entire life while plotting her escape to college and a real life beyond the family dynamic soured by her embittered father's failure and her browbeaten mother's surrender. Her best friend convinces her that the jock boyfriend who feels Terra's killer body more than makes up for her face is a dream come true, but a fender bender changes everything. Jacob is tall, dark, and goth—could he be the one to truly see her, the one with whom she finds her own True North, far from the artificial Land of Beautiful? Headley's characters, both adult and teen, are complex, nuanced, and intriguingly intertwined. Particularly powerful is the depiction of Terra's growing recognition of her own artistic drive and their deepening connection through her mother's mirrored recognition of personal worth. The primary metaphors of maps, journeys, exploration, and art as a catalyst for expression and connection are meaningful and beautifully sustained. Reviewer: Mary Arnold
School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up

Terra's body is very nearly perfect, except for the port-wine birthmark on her left cheek, which several surgeries have failed to remove. It is the teen's final semester of high school and she looks forward to college where she can study art and escape from her bullying, verbally abusive father. Over the Christmas holidays, Terra and her mother get into a car accident and meet Jacob, a Goth Chinese boy with a cleft lip, and his adoptive mother. The women immediately strike up a supportive friendship, while Terra and Jacob grow close. When Terra's brother, who lives in Shanghai, sends her and her mother tickets to visit, and Jacob's mother wants to try to track down Jacob's birth mother, they decide to travel together. But what about Erik, Terra's enamored but slightly clueless boyfriend? Headley's ambitious novel is written in a beautifully crafted style that flows seamlessly. The pace is somewhat bogged down in the first half but it quickens when the characters travel to China, where Jacob, Terra, and their mothers begin to confront their insecurities. Terra and Jacob are flawed, complex, and memorable characters. The message that true beauty and strength come from within is dominant, but this is also a moving and satisfying story in its own right.-Amy J. Chow, The Brearley School, New York City

Kirkus Reviews
The daughter of a verbally abusive cartographer attempts to chart the rugged emotional terrain of her life. Stunning except for the port-wine stain birthmark on her cheek, Terra lives in the shadow of her father's petty sarcasm. She creates collaged maps and endures rigorous workouts to cope, but nothing makes her happy. Then she meets Jacob, a self-assured Asian Goth boy with a cleft lip who invites peoples' stares and doesn't care about Terra's birthmark. A chance to travel to China with Jacob and his adopted mother becomes an opportunity for Terra and her mother to define themselves outside of Dad's narrow parameters and gain the confidence to map their own futures. This emotionally satisfying novel is replete with themes about the true meaning of beauty, the destructive power of verbal abuse and the restorative ability of art. Mapping and cartography terms are expertly woven throughout the text, adding yet another level to an already complex and deeply felt read. Look out, Sarah Dessen. You may have met your match in Headley. (Fiction. 13 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316025058
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
02/01/2009
Series:
A Justina Chen Novel Series
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
320,832
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile:
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Justina Chen Headley's life were a map, it would be dotted with destinations from around the world. Despite her ability to get lost anywhere, she revels in traveling and has lived in Australia and China. Her first young adult novel, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies), won the 2007 Asian Pacific American Award for Youth Literature. Her second book, featuring a gutsy snowboarder, Girl Overboard, won praise from Olympic Gold Medalist and fellow snowboarder Hannah Teter. Justina is a co-founder of readergirlz, an online book community for teens, and lives in Washington with her two children. You can visit her online at justinachenheadley.com.

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