January 16, 2011

North of Beautiful, By Justina Chen Headley

For some reason, my book club is a little too into Young Adult novels. Which explains how North of Beautiful became this month's choice.

Personally, I'm a bit meh on the genre. Typically, they're pretty easy reads, which I appreciate, especially during a busy month like January has been. However, the plots sometimes leave little to be desired and I find myself missing a more adult approach.

Plot: North of Beautiful is about a teenage girl who has a port-wine birthmark on her face. It's become a mark of shame that forces her into a life of being masked and hidden. Until she meets a young man with similar issues, yet he doesn't let them get in the way of living his life. As the two of them navigate a new friendship, Terra realizes how freeing it can be to be unmasked -- to just be herself. Throw in a controlling father, a victimized mother, and a trip to China, and you have North of Beautiful.

For me, the plot was fine, but a bit immature. Which is certainly a characteristic of a Young Adult novel. Told from Terra's perspective, it has to have a teen voice. And it would probably appeal to a teen reader. But I was wanting a more mature tone.

Characters: Terra was a well-written character, but a child. Even though her male counterpart is a year younger, he comes across as so much more adult. Then, there's Terra's parents. Though I started the book hating her mother and her inability to stand up to her controlling husband, I fell in love with her by the end of the book.

Structure: As I said, the book was a quick read and the author keeps the plot moving. It's a bit long at 350 pages, but I finished it in just a couple days.

Again, this is a great book for a teenager, but it's a Young Adult book that I'd tell adults to pass on. 3 stars.

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