Book Review: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

North of Beautiful is a place Terra would like to go.  All her life, beauty has been an integral part of her existence - being born with a port-wine birthmark on her face has made it impossible to ignore.  Now, she plans to graduate high school a year early and get out of her small town to a college as far as possible from her father.  Not only is it impossible to ignore his constant negative comments about her appearance, but watching her mother take those same comments makes life almost unbearable.  But, when she meets a goth boy with a unique perspective on life, she finds her directions are beginning to change.

North of Beautiful

Things I Liked:
Wow.  This book was, in a word, powerful.  I've read books about body image and beauty before, but this one blows them all out of the water.  The things that Terra sees, does, and discovers throughout this book make you think.  They make you evaluate yourself, your self-confidence, your family relationships, and lots of other things.  I'm having a hard time expressing why this book affected me so much, but I feel like it is one that every teenage girl and really every woman should read.  Even if you think you don't have body image issues.  The dynamics of Terra's family relationships just break your heart over and over.  Her father kept making me so angry, and yet I also kept thinking about the kinds of things I say to my family.  Those people we know the best and who know us the best also know the kinds of things that will hurt the most and that we are most sensitive to.  I know sometimes when I get angry I use that knowledge to hurt my family.  This book makes you stop and re-evaluate.  It slaps you in the face and tells you to stop.  I highly recommend you read it.  (Sorry for all the personal feelings and such, but I haven't stopped thinking about it since I finished.)  Some favorite parts:

"It used to bother me how effortless Karin's self-assurance was when my confidence was of the hothouse variety, carefully cultivated under highly regulated conditions.  One wrong look, one mean comment, and my facade would wither." p 9
"Inertia is so easy - don't fix what's not broken.  Leave well enough alone.  So we end up accepting what is broken, mistaking complaining for action, procrastinating for deliberation." p 194
"Flawed, we're truly interesting, truly memorable, and yes, truly beautiful." p 355
Things I Didn't Like:
There isn't a lot of action in the book.  It is slow moving, thoughtful, and more about feelings than actions.  Also, occasionally the dialogue was hard to follow and I had to reread conversations more than once.  But really, these are minor things.  Do yourself a favor and read this one.

A little like Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

s-factor: !@
common throughout

mrg-factor: X
implied, but never described

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

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