North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful

by Justina Chen Headley, Justina Chen
North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful

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. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316025065
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 02/17/2010
Pages: 373
Sales rank: 661,042
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Justina Chen is the author of Return to Me, North of Beautiful,Girl Overboard, and Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies). While the Pacific Northwest is her home base, Justina feels equally at home wherever she goes with her pen, journal, and coconut black tea. Her website is


An Interview with Justina Chen Headley

Q: As the mother of teen boys who don't often see an Asian-American as the "it" guy in pop culture, I'm grateful that you created such a hunk in Jacob. A: One of my missions as a writer was to create a hunk who happened to be Asian! That was a gift for my two brothers and my son…and all the Asian-American dudes out there who need to see guys like themselves as cool. Heartdroppingly cool. Devastatingly cool. It makes me feel great that readers of all ages are emailing me: "I. Am. So. In. Love. With. Jacob." Mission accomplished!

Q: Could you describe one of the most interesting or unusual experiences you had during research for North of Beautiful?

A: To get the port-wine stain information correct, I interviewed one of the top pediatric dermatologists in the Northwest, Dr. Julie Francis. She invited me to her operating room so that I could see all the equipment for myself. I wasn't expecting her to tell me to hop onto the operating table. I started crying when I got on the table. Then Dr. Francis and her nurse actually zapped the back of my hand with the laser. The sick thing is that I asked them to zap it TWICE so that I could really remember the sting, the sound of the laser, everything. What we writers suffer to document the truth.

Q: From your blogging ( and tweeting (, it's clear that you're into geocaching. Did you start geocaching before it became one of Jacob's hobbies, or did it move from the book into the rest of your life?

A: Years ago, I had read about geocaching -- high tech treasure hunting using a GPS -- in an article. It later occurred to me that geocaching could be symbolic of Terra's controlling mapmaker of a father who tries to box her into a grid and the boy who uses maps to break open her world. So in the name of research, I bought a GPS, created an account at, and hauled my kids on an expedition. We were hooked!

One of my favorite geocaching adventures happened over the summer with the readergirlz, Jackie Parker, and Nancy Pearl. Check out for the footage!

Q: While in Shanghai, Jacob says that "real Chinese culture" is "anything to do with money...Everything in China is tied to making a buck." Do you agree with this character's assessment of modern China?

A: Let's just say that when I was living in Shanghai for the last couple of months, it was seen as completely acceptable for everyone and anyone -- even taxi drivers -- to ask point blank how much money you made, how much your house cost, how much your friends earned. One of the sad, unwitting victims in China's mad dash to modernize are its historic neighborhoods, razed without thought to preservation. These old neighborhoods (hutongs in Beijing and lilongs in Shanghai) won't be around for much longer.

An Excerpt from An Open Letter to Phenomenal Girls Everywhere

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine called me up in tears. An acquaintance had commented on a photo my friend had uploaded on Facebook: "You must have turned heads in your heyday."

"What does she mean, in my heyday? Is she saying that I'm ugly now?" my 44-year-old friend wailed. "Am I ugly?"

"Sweetie," I said. "You're gorgeous! Forget about it."


I remember the first time I was called ugly. I was eight and arguing with my father who sneered that I was acting like a stepmother -- you know, the ugly, mean ones who populate fairy tales. The second time I was called ugly, I was spat upon by the racist in my high school. And the third time? I had just moved to Australia and was in a bush pub when a drunkard eyed me over his cavalry line of empty beer steins and slurred, "God, you're really ugly."

Luckily, three times isn't the charm. I'm not dragging myself through life, the poster child for All Things Ugly. What saved me from seeing myself as ugly wasn't being shortlisted as the cover model for a magazine or being named princess at many a high school ball. It was Maya Angelou's poem, PHENOMENAL WOMAN.

I'd rather be The Most Phenomenal Me in my life than The Most Beautiful Girl in the room. One will sustain me forever, the other will fade and leave me yearning for my glory days. I don't want to live in memories of my past prime when I have the beauty of now. --Justina Chen Headley

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