I started Justina Chen Headley’s book North of Beautiful several times. Unfortunately, each time I started it, I had to put it down cause I kept on getting distracted. So over Thanksgiving break I purposely set aside time to read this book. Not only did I use the time I allotted for it but I took time away from other stuff that I was supposed to be doing just to finish it. I read it in the tub, at red lights, during breaks at work, basically any place I can catch a smidgen of time. I loved it. Gently and poignately written, Headley delivers a memorable, soul-searching type of book.  I think it maybe one of my favorite books read so far this year. I know she has other books out and I will certainly put them in my pile of must reads. Now I am recommending this book to other people. Too bad the only copy we have in my library is checked out, not to mention overdue.

Defining what determines attractiveness is not always easy and  so much emphasis is placed on surface beauty, many of us try to hide our flaws.  Terra Cooper understands beauty.  As an aspiring artist specializing in collages, Terra works with an array of materials, blending the elements together to create one image.  Terra is as complicated as one of her collages.

You would never know at first glance that Terra is anything short of perfect – tall, long blond hair, a body most would kill for. It’s at second glance, with the turn of her cheek you will see her flaw – a port wine stain that covers the expanse of her cheek.

She will never be beautiful – her dad deemed her face a lost cause. I felt the bile rising every time her father opened up his mouth to say one of his put downs of the moment leveled at Terra or her mother. Terra practices the art of avoidance because of the fear he instills in her. She totally understands why her brothers escaped their home when they were able to and she plans to follow suit herself as soon as possible. College across the US is still too close for comfort at times.

It was a minor accident that changes the routines Terra has perfected in order to survive her days at home. The accident, which introduces the characters Jacob and Norah to the reader, throws Terra off her course completely both mentally and physically. 

 North of Beautiful, with its wonderfully multi-dimensional characters spoke volumes about relationships and personal journeys. It’s about discovering yourself, exploring unchartered territories as well as finding real beauty and  love.  Every character from Terra and her mother to Jacob and his mother undergo a kind of metamorphosis.  There are many aspects in North of Beautiful that will tug at your heart-strings especially the burgeoning romance between Jacob and Terra.