Saturday, April 25, 2009

North of Beautiful, Justina Chen Headley

This is a YA title that I could see recommending to people who don't like (or think they don't like) YA novels. The writing is clear and beautiful and I liked how Justina didn't take the easy route when dealing with characters who struggle with body issues (in this case weight & birth marks). I have read so many books that deal with an unhappy heroine who magically becomes happy when she finally loses weight. Books like that reinforce what everyone who is unhappy with their body always believes- that as soon as they lose weight (or change whatever "flaw" they feel afflicted with) life will fall into place.

North of Beautiful was very believable and touching. Whenever I read books that feature dysfunctional families, especially those with jerk parents, I'm always reminded of how lucky I am to have such a normal family. More than normal my family is supportive, we get along, we actually like each other. The dad in this book was horrific but he was also a fully drawn character and not just a stock villain.

I also enjoyed how the story managed to include so many different themes without losing sight of the plot. It had me thinking about port wine birth marks, tourism in China (now I want to do more than just hold a baby panda), verbal abuse, romance, art, cartography, coffee beans, geocaching.... while still hoping that things would work out for Terra and her mom.

I definitely plan to read Justina's other books now.

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