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NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL By; Justina Chen Headley April 29, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

          This title, cover, and the basic book premise did not, at first, look like something which would be appealing to the Lycan Librarian.  Where is the carnage? Where is the darkness? What is there, in these pages, to send a chill snaking up ones spine? But sometimes there are dark layers camouflaged under the mask of a nice and happy family, so this book did unnerve our tough librarian with echoes of her father’s berating voice, and memories of her family’s misery and alienation suffered under the thundering demands of a man who felt he could never be wrong. Headley did such a fine job writing this novel, that, undoubtedly, many other readers will feel similar suppressed emotions and/or memories surface and pop in their faces.

     This YA novel is narrated by Terra, a beautiful teen who is tall, thin, platinum blonde, and perfect in every way, except for the strawberry birthmark that stretches across the plain of her right cheek. She has become extremely skilled at masking the stain under layers of make- up that she expertly blends herself to match her complexion in any given season. What she masks even better, and at a deeper level, is her desperation for perfection and her inability to recognize and draw upon her talents. It isn’t until Jacob happens into her life that she understands she is beautiful and worthy whether or not she is capable of hiding her faults. Jacob is a Goth boy who was adopted, at age three, from a Chinese orphanage. In America, he underwent surgery to correct his cleft palate. He still wears the scar, but on a handsome face that blows women, especially Terra, away.
     Terra’s family lives under the iron fist and disapproval of her father, a rigid and controlling man with a knack for being negative and making people feel bad about themselves. Terra’s mother especially suffers, and her ample weight, the result of her habitual comfort eating, demonstrates the strain and self-loathing that consumes her. A trip to China, taken by mother and daughter with Jacob and his mother, is an interesting and appealing armchair journey that pads the book with extra reason to read it.
     Anyone who knows a teen (or even an adult) who doubts his or her self and appearance should recommend this book to them. The author states the basic premise of her book plainly, sincerely and sagely when she says, “Flawed, we’re truly interesting, truly memorable, and yes, truly beautiful.”



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