Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley


Title: North of Beautiful
Author:
Justina Chen Headley
Genre: YA fiction

Where I got it:
E-book from the library

One sentence:
Terra is a gorgeous girl who works to cover up her one flaw- a port-wine stain on her left cheek- until she meets Jacob, a Chinese Goth boy who challenges her ideas of beauty.

Themes:
Beauty, traveling, self-discovery, fractured families, romance,

Main character:
5/5
There is a lot to like about Terra. As a character, she is extremely well-developed and relatable, even though I’ve never been in a situation like hers. I’ve noticed a recent trend of characters being defined solely by a hobby that they do, or a sport that they play, and while Terra’s art is definitely part of who she is, I didn’t feel that making art was what made her, her.

Secondary characters:
5/5
The secondary characters were nearly as flawless in their characterization as the protagonist. Jacob, the Goth Chinese love interest, was quirky and mature. The way that Headley developed their relationship was nearly perfect- their conversations were deep and engaging and the progression felt just right.
Further, the relationship between Terra and her family was wonderful. I found Terra’s mom particularly interesting, overweight and timid due to her husband’s overbearing ways. The way that she and Terra evolve through their journey was astounding and rang true.

Writing style: 4.5/5
The writing style felt very mature for YA, which I appreciated. Sometimes I feel like writers think they need to cut out all of their voice, style, and descriptions and make their YA novels completely plot-driven. North of Beautiful definitely proves that wrong. I loved the progression of Terra’s development coinciding with the three stages of the novel. The only thing I didn’t like was that the book was a little long and there were a couple scenes that were paced a little slow, but beyond that, the style was compelling and beautiful.

Plot:
4/5
I’m not usually big into realistic fiction. Normally, I like my novels more plot-driven than character, which is why this was definitely a big change for me. However, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. The sections did catch me a little off-guard at first, because I was afraid it would end up too much like two or three separate books (the one where they meet, the one where they travel, etc.). However, Headley did extremely well tying them all together even though they were countries apart!

Best scene: 
Terra in the orphanage. Melted my heart!

Positives: 
The expert characterization (gahhh! So good!), beautifully developed plot, the unusual qualities brought in (Jacob as an adopted Chinese Goth, cartography, geocaching, even the port-wine stain was something I’d never heard of), the mature writing style.

Negatives:
I mentioned earlier that the length was a little long, sometimes the pacing was too slow on a couple scenes, it was definitely a slow start to the book too (I’m ashamed to say I thought it wouldn’t be as good as it was), the plot was a tad predictable.

First Line: Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you’d probably think I was perfect.

Cover: Simple, but so gorgeous! I love the compass pointing North toward the girl, it’s really the epitome of the novel.

Ending:
Absolutely perfect.

Verdict:
A masterful and emotional telling of a girl looking for the meaning of “beautiful”

Rating:
9.2 / 10

1 comment :

  1. Great review! I'd pretty much ignored this book up until now but now I want to read it!

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