- Fizzy Thoughts: North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful

Thursday, July 09, 2009

North of Beautiful
Justina Chen Headley
February 2009
384 pages

from Publishers Weekly
Laced with metaphors about maps and treasure, Headley's (Girl Overboard) finely crafted novel traces a teen's uncharted quest to find beauty. Two things block Terra's happiness: a port-wine stain on her face and her verbally abusive father, a failed cartographer who views her as ugly and belittles the collages she creates. A car accident brings her together with Jacob, an Asian-born adoptee with unconventional ideas. Besides introducing her to new pursuits like geocaching, a treasure-hunting game using GPS, Jacob ends up traveling with her when they have an opportunity to visit China together with their mothers. The trip, far-reaching on many different levels, gives Terra a chance to rethink the past and re-map her goals. Taking readers to America's Northwest, then to China and back again, the author confidently addresses very large, slippery questions about the meaning of art, travel, love and of course beauty. All of her characters hold secrets; finding them out will be as rewarding as Terra's discoveries of caches.

When I was a teenager my bedroom walls weren’t plastered with posters of teen idols.  Instead, I had maps everywhere.  My parents subscribed to National Geographic and I loved the issues that came with maps.  You’re probably wondering why I mentioned that, since it makes me look like a dork.  But Terra, the main character in North of Beautiful, also has a bedroom wallpapered with maps.  Okay, so it’s the room she inherited (maps included) from her older brother.  But still.  Maps.  *swoon*

Enough with the maps. 

North of Beautiful has a lot going on, despite the fact that it’s an engrossing and quick read.  It addresses inner vs. outer beauty, the confidence to be yourself, the meaning of true friendship, verbal abuse, the question of what art is, and all sorts of other things.  Yet, while all of these issues are present in the book, the author doesn’t bash you over the head with them (well, except maybe the stand up and be yourself bit).  This book is the story of Terra’s journey towards self-acceptance, and it’s fun to go along for the ride.

8 comment(s):

Eva said...

Maps are so awesome! They'll be a very important part of decor when I have my own place. :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Me too! The maps were the coolest part!

Care said...

I love maps too! I don't think you're a dork. This sounds like a lovely book.

Melanie said...

I really enjoyed this book as well. It was quite an inspiring read. I love maps too! :D

bermudaonion said...

I'm so glad you liked this! I bought it after I read Swapna's review, but haven't read it yet.

Joanne said...

Maps are cool. We have a whole box full of NatGeo maps, I really like the ones that show what certain countries looked like hundreds of years ago.

This book definitely looks like one I would enjoy! Knowing that it mentions geo-caching is really neat.

Melody said...

I'm adding this to my wishlist!

Julie P. said...

I've read numerous reviews about this book and I'd love to read it!

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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