North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley (February 1st 2009)
Grade: 5 stars out of 5
Summary: “She’s tall, blond, and has an unbelievably gorgeous body. But what most people in Terra’s tiny, stifling Washington town notices is her unmistakably “flawed” face. Terra secretly plans to start a new life by leaving her small town and escaping to an East Coast college, but is pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision introduces Terra to Jacob, a handsome but odd Goth Chinese boy who immediately understands her battle with feeling different, she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?”
Review: This is a MUST read. I love this book. LOVE! I shall now stop using my monosyllabic words and actually explain why I love this book...
When first reading the summary the phrase “odd Goth Chinese boy” might have thrown you off, like it did to me and my friends, but I immediately fell in love with his character once the dialogue started to come out. What I greatly appreciated was the fact that he also had a birth defect like Terra. It gave an almost a deeper connection, a physical bond of some sort.
Here’s a simple quote from the book: “Other countries rose in power and knowledge, and China went to sleep. The dragon was waking now.” A fantastic metaphor. In one simple sentence you can understand what Justina is trying to convey: that it’s China’s rebirth, a powerful explosion of technology and science. The Olympics of 2008 was just a taste of what is to come from this once dormant nation.
The characters were also amazing! I love how not only Terra grew, but her mom and her dad as well! It was like having an egg, and bit by bit, a piece of shell was taken away and you’re left with a new hatchling. You can’t but help feeling awed and inspired. I feel that the development was well paced, greatly expressed through action and dialogue, as well as the interaction with the other characters.
But in general, this was a thought provoking book. Who truly is the victim here? Is it Terra, the one always in hiding even from herself? Or is it her father, a bitter man whose passion is destroyed by a single map? It goes so much deeper than that. It’s the need to feel important, wanted, and cared for.
But if you’re enclosed in a room and a relationship that chokes you, then flee. To many, reading can be an escape, a journey to take you far away even for a few hours. Art is Terra’s form of disappearing for awhile. This is where she makes her statement. And it comes to life through her eyes and voice and definitely on the pages.
Overall: A magnificent book! My only criticism is the length. It got a bit wordy in some areas. Kudos for the Mandarin terminology used correctly in the novel. North of Beautiful takes you on a journey to find true beauty, true serenity of oneself like Terra.
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