North of Beautiful was about a gorgeous girl with a port wine stain on her face, I was eager to read the novel. It's been on my "To Read" list for awhile, so I was happy to find it in our school library. I was even happier to find that this is a novel that far surpassed my already high expectations.
Terra's life is limited in a variety of ways: she is self conscious of her imperfect face, she works out constantly and excessively minds what she eats so that she can compensate for her face, and she and her family dodge the moods of her verbally abusive father. When she meets Jacob, a boy who doesn't fit any of the categories into which Terra has been boxed, her world expands, both literally and figuratively.
I was beyond thrilled that Jacob, the love interest in the novel, was Asian. It is a rare but welcome treat to have the caucasian protagonist fall in love with an Asian boy, especially one who is not stereotypical in any way, except that he is crushworthy. Bravo to author Justina Chen Headley for adding diversity to the YA world in an evenhanded and admirable way.
Headley's treatment of verbal abuse is among the most nuanced and sensitive I've ever encountered. I have read a lot of books about abusive parents, but few compare to the cold fear inspired by Mr. Cooper. As described by Headley, "...I could see how Karin had no idea how terrifying words spoken quietly could be. How words chosen precisely to wreak the maximum damage ticked like a bomb in your head, but exploded in your heart hours later, leaving you scarred and changed." This quote serves as a reminder to me that some throwaway comment that I make could resonate with a person (particularly a student) in a harmful way.
There are so many wonderful opportunities to think that are presented in this novel. There are not enough praise words for how I feel about it!