Purple Prose + YA novel review

North of Beautiful

Book blurb: It’s hard not to notice Terra Cooper. She’s tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably “flawed” face. Terra secretly plans to leave her small, stifling town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob’s path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find he true path?

Writers, did you notice her great hook? So simple yet it grabs your attention. Okay, since this is a book review and not a post about query writing, time to move on.

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley is a powerful story about a teen’s search for the definition of beauty, something you’d have expected Terra to know about considering she’s an artist. But even that she questions. Her father is a map maker, which has influenced Terra’s art. Because of this, Justina infuses the prose with metaphors linked to maps and geocaching. I’m jealous at how effortless she makes it look. For those of us unfamiliar with the terms, they’re explained through the narration, but not once did they slow the pace. I highly recommend the book for anyone attempting to do the same with their novels. It inspired me to use imagery related to competitive swimming in my story, something I hadn’t even thought about doing before reading North of Beautiful.

While the story explores the definition of beauty, it also shows the destructive power of verbal abuse and how inner strength can come from the most unlikely places. For those of us who live for romance (yep, me), you won’t be disappointed. There’s a love triangle involving Jacob and Terra’s boyfriend, who has never seen her without her thick layers of makeup.

Overall, I enjoyed the story even though I’m not a huge fan of literary YA. But I do love Sarah Dessen and Kirkus wrote that Sarah might have met her match in Justina. Okay, I’ll admit, that’s why I bought the book, though I don’t think you can really compare the two authors.

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North of Beautiful + YA novel review