Seventeen year old Terra Cooper has been hiding behind makeup her whole life. Terra has a port wine stain that covers one side of her face. She has undergone numerous laser treatments in order to remove the birthmark but all have been unsuccessful. As if being physically “scarred” is not enough, her control freak father continually berates her for her imperfections and she lives in constant fear that other people will notice how dysfunctional her family truly is.
Terra has been taught by her family that the definition of beauty is skin deep (Her mother is always on the lookout for the latest laser technology to remove her birthmark and restore her “ruined” face. Her father frequently calls her Jolie laide, which is French for “pretty ugly”. I mean this girl cannot catch a break!) But her core beliefs are challenged when she meets Jacob, a Goth boy from the big city. Jacob has had his share of heartache. He was born in China and given up for adoption because he was born with a cleft pallet. And while his physical deformity has been corrected, his distinctly Asian features mark him an outsider in his own family. However, he is the first person to really SEE Terra--to notice the girl within, to appreciate the inner beauty and talent she possesses, and to understand her actions and reactions to those around her. Through her friendship with Jacob and the encouragement of her art mentors, Terra begins to rediscover herself. She starts developing the self-assurance to take control of her life, to show her identity, and display her inner Iron Goddess to the world.
I LOVED this book!!! Justina Chen Headley has done a wonderful job of melding characters, action, and emotion to create a story that is both relevant and heartfelt. Her writing is poetic and is so filled with “ah ha!” moments that I found myself wanting to read many of the passages over and over again. I really like the way she weaves the story around cartography (map making) and geocaching.
I found myself wanting to look at old maps and search for hidden treasure while reading this book (and since I have a not-so-secret love for Captain Jack Sparrow this should not be surprising). I have recently been introduced to geocaching through the Southwest Area Geocachers, a local group who attended the Share Your Passion Program at the Woodland West Branch Library last month. I cannot wait for the weather to get nicer so that I can go try it out! By the way, North of Beautiful is another shining example of the AWESOME books on the 2010 Lone Star Reading List!
Review by Angela