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North of beautiful

by Justina Chen Headley


Reviews

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Sixteen-year-old Terra seems to be a typical high-achieving high-school student. Under her heavy makeup, though, she hides a port-wine colored birthmark on her cheek that makes her feel like an outsider. During yet another attempt to remove the birthmark, Terra runs into Jacob, a gorgeous Goth with a cleft-palette scar. That encounter initiates a transformation in both Terra and her subservient mother. Headley has written an exquisite book that explores the difference between physical and true beauty as Terra and her mother travel from Washington state to China, and from the home of a shame-faced, cruel cartographer into the presence of an adventurous, strong woman and her insightful teenage son. Headley uses map metaphors throughout, even in the activity, geocaching, which helps bond Terra and Jacob in both Washington and China. She also uses Terra's artistic medium, collage, as a literary device to create layer upon layer of experiences and insights into a artfully written journey of self-discovery, self-actualization, and love. With every carefully chosen word, well-crafted sentence, and fully developed character, Headley maps out a wholly satisfying reading experience that takes readers from terra nullis to terra firma.--Bradburn, Frances Copyright 2009 Booklist


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


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