Sunday, March 22, 2009

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

It's not hard to notice Terra Cooper. 
She's tall, blond, and has an unbelievably gorgeous body. But what most people in Terra's tiny, stifling Washington town notice 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?
(Summary from back of ARC)

North of Beautiful was a really stereotypical and predictable book. All the characters were run of the mill and cookie-cutter-ish even in the flaws and quirks that were supposed to make them unique and interesting. The journey that the main character goes through to discover herself is expected and not as emotionally moving as it was meant to be. The "twist" that gets thrown in at the end, when all the stuff that she messed up on earlier comes back to bite her in the behind, wasn't climactic. Really, North of Beautiful doesn't present anything outstanding or out of the ordinary. 

But I loved it. I can't really figure out why a book with so many flaws made me so happy. My best guess is that Justina Chen Headley really knows how to write. It was the way the book was written and executed that made it so great. It takes a skilled author to be able to make something stereotypical and highly normal into something interesting and enlightening and entirely enjoyable - which is exactly what North of Beautiful was. 

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. 

Besides him, I really did like all of the rest of the characters. They, too, might have been a little shallow and one-sided, but it was all made up for in their relationships and conversations. They interacted beautifully. My favorite person to read about, throughout the book, was Terra's mother. I kind of liked seeing her change and become a better, brighter woman. There was something comforting in the predictability. 

I think the highlight of the book for me was Jacob and Terra's relationship. I don't know if book characters can have chemistry but, if it's possible, they had it. The way all of their interactions were described was fantastic. Makes me wish I had a guy who could send shivers down my spine just by his very presence. :P 

The other aspect of the book that I thoroughly enjoyed was the traveling and sight-seeing that the characters did. I was actually on my spring break trip when I was reading this so I could sort of relate to the feelings of discovering yourself and growing as a person while you're away from home. I adore traveling so reading a story with that incorporated in it was fun. 

Oh! And the geocaching element was awesome to read about because (nerdily) my family and I do it sometimes. Hehe.

So yes, do read this book. It might not be a ground breaking novel but it's a cute, delicious, and thoroughly enjoyable comfort read. 


  1. I loved this book! I agree that some of the characters were a little stereotypical, but the book left me very happy.

  2. Seriously, I would just read it because of the fact the main guy is a Chinese Goth. That already grabbed my attention. Asian pride!!

    I'll see if I'll pick it up. =)

  3. I can't wait to read it! You make it sound great even if it is stereotypical and predictable (which usually never bother me anyway). ;)

  4. I totally agree!
    I was sooo close to going out and buying a GPS.

  5. A Chinese goth does sound unique. Cool review! I'm glad you liked it, and will look for it soon.


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