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North of Beautiful
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North of Beautiful

4.4 351
by Justina Chen Headley, Justina Chen

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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 "flawed" face.


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.

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.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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)

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
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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North of Beautiful 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 351 reviews.
MaeLingT More than 1 year ago
If I had one thing to say about North of Beautiful, it would be, "I was moved." From the beginning, I was engaged. I was also impressed with the number of issues and topics covered, everything from common teenage frustrations and Chinese cultural experiences to unique family dynamics and personal passions. The author hit the mark - entering the hearts, minds, and souls of teenage girls and grown-up women. We can relate. Reading North of Beautiful was as much fun as catching up with a girlfriend. It leaves you feeling connected and understood!
Nightmare More than 1 year ago
And this book proves it. When I first saw the cover of this book with the blond girl, I had a feeling that the story was going to be like every other 'teen' read. Beautiful blonnd girl dealing with a little bit of this and that, but in the end getting everything that she wants and living happily ever after with prince charming. I was dead wrong. This book, honestly, opened my eyes to what should be important in life. I'm not saying that how you personally look isn't important, but the book goes much deeper. The book covers so many different aspects to a teenagers life, from home and siblings and parents, to school, boys, relationships, finding out who one is suppose to be and what you like and dislike...the book covers everything. Plus, the characters are unforgettable. Each personality is so distinct and personal. There is someething in here for everyone to relate too. I do recomend this book to any teenager that is going through any self-confidence issues or just wants a good read.
readtolive_livetoread More than 1 year ago
North of Beautiful studies the division between exterior appearance and interior condition. I could write a term paper on the layers of this theme in this book. North of Beautiful reminded me, in many ways, of a John Green novel - smart teenagers stumbling through situations and eventually getting their legs beneath them - from a girl's perspective. The cartographic elements from the ancient maps in Terra's house to the geocacheing adventures added a layer of intelligence and fun. What I liked most about this story, though, was Terra's recognition of her own strengths and beauty. By the end of the book I had come to love my dear cookie-cutter characters. Except for one. Terra's dad disgusted me. He was completely one dimensional and cruel. The little turn around that happened with him at the end of the book left me skeptical. My complaint with him was that we didn't get any background that might have shed some light why he acted the way he did. It would have been nice to a see some insight into who he is and why. But I think, for the most part, he served his purpose in making readers loathe him.
jessicag5842 More than 1 year ago
The main character Terra has this birthmark on her face and anything she tries to do, it wont go away and then she meets jacob this goth boy who helps her relize what true beauty is all about... and she defines it like this, "It connects you with anything and everything and fills you with awe that you share the same space with something that glorious. Like a sunrise or a clear blue day or the most extraordinary piece of glass. And then suddenly you have this epiphany that there's more to the world than just you and what you want or even who you are." i THINK THIS BOOK IS REALLY GOOD... so i think you should read it... im 15 years old,
_bookwormextraordinaire_ More than 1 year ago
North of Beautiful is unique and definitely worth your time. If you have any doubts about yourself, this book will at the very least, lighten your perspective. It's main character, Terra Cooper has a birthmark that dominates a good portion of the right side of her face, a verbally abusive father, two absent brothers, and a depressed, submissive mother. Throughout the book she slowly begins to find herself and fall in love with a boy who happens to be not her boyfriend and also sporting his own set of problems. My only issue with the book was that you were somewhat left hanging in regards to the two main characters, other than that I can honestly say my heart swelled.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wasnt sure if i was going to like this book in the beginning, but then i read it, and it was so amazingly good. It was agreat story about people who overcome diffuculties about physical appearences together while touring china. It was a wonderful plot to be brought up in a wonderful setting. It was fantastic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book it is amazing. I was so moved and could not take my eyes away. Trust u will love this book!!!!!!!!!
stopper19 More than 1 year ago
Terra always struggled with her image. Living with a port-wine stain on her cheek made her feel ugly and unwanted. She did everyhting she could to be popular and fit in. Although, she was living behind a mask of what her father wanted her to be. Then everything changed when she met Jacob. They became best friends (and even more) and their moms became best friends too. Jacob showed Terra that she was truly beautiful no matter what.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
North of Beautiful has a cover of a blonde girl. I have seen many covers with blonde girls and wasnt particularly surprised that the book had something to do with beauty. Then i read it. I was blown away. This is not the typical shallow, beautiful,blonde girls book. Instead the plot lines were all twisted together wonderfully forming a book with meaning. The characters are relateable and make you feel real emotions. This book made me think, and quite honestly, made me look at myself and feel confident about who i am.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was just okay. it kind of dragged on for a while and i only finished it to see if it got better. It had some good parts, and the characters were likable and you could relate to them, but i probably wouldn't read it again. i felt like it had too many themes: her self consciousness and insecurity, the verbal abuse from her dad, her relationships with her friends and family, her art stuff, the geocaching stuff, the mapping theme throughout, etc. it didn't really flow well together, i thought.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing book. Me, being an average teen, could completely relate to her feelings. This book made me both laugh and cry (a lot)! It made me think both "That is SO unfair!" and "DaaWWWWWHH!" The author gave me a vivid mental image of everything in the book. The text was so dense and rich, reading it a second time gave me a completely different view of it than the first. My advice: read this book. If you already have, read it again. If you've already read it twice, read it a third time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have struggled.with being who I am for a long time. I never felt pretty, I saw myself as fat and ugly. True I dont have a big port wine stain like Terra. I'm also nut a blond, but i still struggled to find my "true north". This boook really encouraged me to be who I really am. To be proud of myself and not to let other people determan who I am. Although it's a little slow at times, I would encourage any teen girl who feels they areugly or fat or anythimg else to read this book. It really makes you think about what beautiful really is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started to read it and loved it but had to take it back to the libarey so hope to get this book to finish it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book it's amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Let me simply put it, read it. I loved it and anyone whonsays it dragged on is wrong. Any more action and it would be an action novel. Any less and it would be a sleepy hollow type book. Tthis book is the eye of the storm, calm beautiful, ajd alarming. It makes yooou realize the roughness and howw ti face it. I loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was only okay to me, I mean, it sends an amazing message but it wasnt very well written ( it seemed to go ON AND ON) i dont think I would recomend this to a friend- or to you. So I am so sorry (to the author) and please dont waste your time! If you do or did read it, please listen to the message (p.s. I am 14 years old...) (I would rate this 2 stars but it gets extra points for the message!)
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
"Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you'd probably think I was perfect." After sixteen years, Terra Rose Cooper has mastered the fine art of hiding the cracks in the facade of her perfect life. Concealer and foundation quickly camouflage the port-wine stain on Terra's cheek. A rigorous exercise regimen gives Terra control over her body that she never had over her face. It also makes sure her body is one that her boyfriend, a beautiful and popular jock himself, will definitely appreciate. It's harder to hide her family's flaws; her father's denigrating comments, her mother's compulsive baking (and eating), the flight of her older brothers' away from the family--and from their little sister. Terra is so focused on her plan to finish high school early and flee to an East Coast college that, sometimes, it's easy to forget that she bears marks from the household as clear as any birthmark. Terra's dream of a fresh start as far away from her small town Washington life as possible is dashed when her father vetoes her escape plan. Terra's one true refuge is in her art. While working on her collages, Terra doesn't have to think about her father or worry about protecting her mother, she has the freedom not yet afforded by her real life. Things begin to change when Terra and her mother (almost literally) runs into Jacob and his family. At first it seems like Terra wouldn't have anything in common with this sophisticated Goth boy who has found his way into her small town. Yet, he understands Terra in a way that no one ever has. Their chance meeting sets Terra on an unexpected path and helps her understand that you need to open your eyes before you can really see true beauty, in the eyes of the beholder or otherwise. Chen artfully blends Terra's artistic personality with her background knowledge of cartography and maps, gained from her father and central to the plot, to create a uniquely informative and engaging narrative. This book is a love story on many levels. First, in the conventional boy-meets-girl sense of the term. This novel is also Terra's love story with herself as she learns to love herself and come to terms with her birthmark. But, for me, the big event in North of Beautiful was the fact that this was a love story about a mother and daughter. North of Beautiful is, in fact, dedicated to the author's own mother and with good reason. It is so easy to write books for teens that are depopulated of adults and feature parents in only brief appearances. Here, happily, that is not the case. Aside from Terra, Lois is arguably one of the most important characters in the entire story. Watching the healing process as Terra and Lois reconnect also made me feel incredibly grateful for and proud of my own mom. Ultimately, aside from being one of my favorite books of 2009 (so far), North of Beautiful was incredibly uplifting. The beginning of the novel is not always easy to read. Terra's home life is anything but happy, and Chen tackles the issue of verbal abuse (abuse without the telltale blows or shouts)head on . But that isn't the main event here. Instead, the story is about how Terra and her mother move past that and build themselves back up. I'll say it again, the story here was beautiful, and even I dare say life-affirming. Like Terra herself, readers will put down this book with a whole new outlook on . . . everything.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my new favorite book!!!!!!!!! It is charming, haunting, sweet, and deep. The perfect book! If you do not like it at first keep reading.
CeWishy33 More than 1 year ago
North of Beautful, by Justina Chen Headley, was a novel about a girl who was born with a port wine stain, a big, red mark covering half of her face. All her life she has just been living behind make up, a mask of who she really is. Then, during a near death incident, she runs into (literally) a young, handsome goth boy. She starts to hang out with him, and realizes that they aren't that different. They both have something to hid. He teaches her to love who she is, as they travel both locally and worldwide, searching for answers.
YA-Addict More than 1 year ago
North of Beautiful takes the reader on a journey of discovering what beauty truly is. It makes you take a good look at the times you judged yourself, and the times you judged others. It is a remarkable story of not just one character, but a whole family.This wasn't a book that I clicked with from the first page. It took me a few chapters to get the "feel" for the story. But once that happened, I was in love. Headley's characters are so dimensional and come to life right before your eyes. Terra was a character anyone can sympathise with. We all have things about us that have made us feel like we don't measure up to what is seen as beauty. But for Terra, that is a birthmark right on her face. It's what she in known for by everyone in town. Even when she covers it up, everyone knows it's there. She goes to many extremes to get rid of the mark, but nothing works. Terra has very low self esteem, and all the people giving her the wrong advise only make it worse (a teacher giving her a giving her a pamphlet for laser surgery? Wrong!) I just wanted to grab her out of the pages and give her a much needed hug! I was surprised to see that Terra's parents were a big part of the story. Something you don't see too much in YA. Her parents are no support team for Terra, though. Her dad is emotionally abusive, and her mom is a doormat that eats away her feelings. Terra's parents were written so realistically. Which, of course made you want to strangle Terra's dad at times. I have been a victim of emotional abuse before, and I know what the effects can be. It's something no one should ever have to go through. Besides Terra, the character I loved the most was Jacob. From the description, I didn't think I would click with him. But he was incredibly sweet and just what Terra needed. I adored the romance between these two. I also loved how they both were "flawed", which brought them closer together. While North of Beautiful is mainly a story of self discovery, it also had a wonderful sense of adventure. The trip Terra and her mom took to China was eye opening for me. It reminded me how big the world really is, and how much I'd love to see more of it. Along with the lively characters, Headley has a wonderful writing style that keeps you invested in the story. Most stories that deal with subjects like this tend to leave me drained. But North of Beautiful ended in an uplifting way that had me smiling. It strengthens by believe that beauty really is within the flaws. North of Beautiful is an endearing story not to be missed. If you are not pulled in right away, stick with it. You will be so happy you did.
wheeze More than 1 year ago
Everything one likes to be perfect, just like the people around them. That's how Terra feels. She was born with a Port Wine Stain, literally a red big blob that covers a whole side of her cheek and face. This book is great for you to know how it feels to be different. We aren't all skinny, or tall, or short, or chubby. We are just ourselves. I wish the romance with Jacob was played out more, and that she stuck up to her Dad more. That man is a beast and gets everything that comes to home. Wonderful book all and all, a great story for any teen to read.
thebookscoop More than 1 year ago
...I liked everyone in this book except Terra's Dad. Even at the end of the book, I still didn't like his punk jerk butt. He was such an arrogant punk that nothing he could do would make me like him. When the book ended, I wondered what happened between Terra's parents. Did the Mom stay with the Dad? Did the Dad really tame his ways? Then I got to wondering what the hell happened with Claudius? I really liked Claudius. I think I liked Claudius more than I liked Eric AND Jacob though Jacob was pretty awesome. This book deals with a lot of body image issues that teenagers go through when they're in high school and middle school and what not. I would definitely recommend this book to those of you guys out there who want to read something thought provoking and just plain ol' good. This book was a definite treat for me and I'm sure it will be for you as well. To read the full review, visit http://thebookscoop.com.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was wonderful! The characters were lovely. I loved the main character and loved the plot. I think that anyone that loves a good read and loves love stories should definitely read this novel. All i have to say is WONDERFUL!
myheartswings More than 1 year ago
This was so surprising. In the beginning, I thought the girl was a bit of a snob, but after a couple of chapters... I don't think I've ever found a character so like me that I was actually... THERe. I cried at the end. At first I didn't like this. So I tossed it somewhere in my room. Then.. a couple of weeks ago, I found it. I had read everything in the house and I got to this one last. I had been going through a really hard time, and this book was suddenly so... this book... it became my friend. It taught me so much. It was a true experience. I have quotes from this book tacked up on my wall. Did I mention this book was addicting? I've never lost so much sleep over a book before. I finally finished this at like 3 AM on a tuesday, on the couch in the living room, weeping my heart out. This helped me through a lot of what I'd been going through. I can't thank the author enough for this experience.
Kay_to_the_C More than 1 year ago
I loved it! I read it and was hooked to it. I lve how it inspires some girls to take over their lives and not be a mop controlled by everyone. It shows you what is right and what is not. It deals with everything girls deal with from puberty to boys troubles to unreliable dads and so on. i definetly recomend someone to read this book. ;]