Sunday, July 6, 2008

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Terra is tall, blonde, and beautiful--except for the port wine stain birthmark across her right cheek. Life has been a series of disappointing surgeries that failed to remove her "flaw," along with the tension and tyranny of her controlling father, two brothers who have escaped and no longer contact her, and a mother who just gives in to it all. When she gets into her dream school in the far-off East coast, she believes her own escape has arrived. But that is before her father squashes her dream, before one last surgery attempt fails, before she nearly runs over a pedestrian on a snowy afternoon.

The pedestrian, Goth boy Jacob and his adoptive mother, Norah, change everything, leading Terra and her mother on a voyage of self-discovery and vision. Now Terra's perfect map of her beautiful future becomes the cryptic cooridinates for a strange treasure hunt that just might save her.

This was an interesting story with a likeable but realistic protagonist, full of people with believable issues and attitudes. The framework of mapping and geocaching seemed like it would get old or irritating, but it really worked for this novel. Terra starts out searching for the Land of Beautiful, but slowly discovers her real destination is acceptance of herself and others. I would so recommend this book for teen girls, especially those with identity and beauty issues. It works on so many different levels--it's about self, family, romance, travel, art and much more.

Due out in February 2009, North of Beautiful is probably going to be one of my favorite reads this year. Check out the author's site Reader Girlz and Teri Lesesne's review.

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