Monday, 7 May 2012

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You're the one who asked-and I repeat-Why not fix your face?
It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.
She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

 For a lot of books I start off with - oh my gosh, it was great, I couldn't put it down. But with this book? Take that saying literally. Well, almost. It felt like I never put it down. Before bed, I'd pick it up again, and would be falling asleep, but just kept saying to myself "Okay, after this chapter I will go to sleep...or this chapter...or this chapter...yup, definitely after this chapter," and so on. For me, it felt like one of those books that avid readers crave for; amazing storyline, awesome author, longer than 300 pages (a bit of a rarity nowadays) - it was a book that made me think, and for that it is instantly up on my list of great reads. But these aren't the only reasons.

I loved the main characters - Terra, Lois, Norah and Jacob. I detest books that have gorgeous main characters who think they're ugly but obviously aren't - it just makes everything unrealistic. But Terra is realistic - she's gorgeous, but with a fault; her port-stain scar. And I think that because she isn't perfect and is insecure like most other teenage girls, it makes her easy to relate to from the beginning - maybe we don't have birthmarks on our faces, but we have acne, scars; we are different sizes, colours and shapes, so in that sense although we may not be like her, we still feel like it. I also liked her mother, Lois, and her storyline. At the beginning, I did have my doubts, and thought I would get a bit annoyed at her seeming patheticness. But towards the second part of the book, I loved her, and felt like she was one of the most strongest women I had ever read about. The story wasn't just about Terra learning to come to terms with her appearance - it was about her mother learning to stand up for herself. And it was beautiful, and I did cry. But heck, if you read it, you'll probably be blubbing like a fish too!

I think one of the best things about this novel was Terra and Jacob's relationship. Again, it was realistic, in some respects. It wasn't like they made eye-contact and instantly fell in love (cough, Twilight, cough) - you knew it was coming, but it wasn't immediate, and you watched as they learnt more about each other and began to love each other. And when you knew they were in love, it wasn't like they were instantly down each others throats - and when they were, it was romantic, not rushed or hurried. And - not to sound corny - but it felt like being kissed yourself, in a sort of way. (Not that I have a book crush on Jacob...noooo....).

I've never read a book by Headley before, but I'm certain I will in the future. I really enjoyed it, and for first impressions of an author, I'm absolutely blown away. If you liked Sarah Dessen books when you were younger, or books by Jenny Downham, Jennifer Echols, you will love this, trust me. Definitely worth the read.
Rating : 5/5

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