Book Review: North of Beautiful


A tall blonde with an envy-inspiring body — it’s hard to miss Terra Cooper. Most people, however, are distracted from the real her when they see her face. She has a port wine stain on the left side of her cheek that’s hard to miss.

For Terra, however, her “flawed” face isn’t such a big deal. Her bigger problem is her overbearing and more often than not — flat out mean — father. Terra understands why her dad, who is also a cartographer, is the way he is, but that doesn’t make her life any easier. She and her mother must walk on pins and needles around him to avoid setting him off on a spree of insults.

Because of this, her singular focus lies in moving out of the small Northwestern town where she grew up to go away to college. Terra works at a local art gallery to earn cash for her plan, while she puts off displaying her own carefully crafted collages. She’s also extra focused on her schoolwork so she’ll be certain to have the grades to earn a scholarship. And, when she meets a boy she could maybe like, who also has a scar, she avoids her feelings for him so as to not distract herself from the goal.

Her plan, of course, is stymied when her mother befriends the boy’s mother and the four of them begin spending more and more time together. Yet, everything falls completely to pieces when her older brother invites Terra and her mother to visit him in China, and their new friends decide to join them.

With a treasure trove of maps and cartographic references woven into the story, North of Beautiful is a warm and relatable exploration of the meaning of art, families, and of course, beauty.

Read more about the book from publisher, Little Brown, here, or on Amazon.

About the Author

If Justina Chen Headley’s life were a map, it would be dotted with destinations from around the world. Despite her ability to get lost anywhere, she revels in traveling and has lived in Australia and China. Her first young adult novel, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies), won the 2007 Asian Pacific American Award for Youth Literature. Her second book, featuring a gutsy snowboarder, Girl Overboard, won praise from Olympic Gold Medalist and fellow snowboarder Hannah Teter. Justina is a co-founder of readergirlz, an online book community for teens, and lives in Washington with her two children. You can visit her online at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>