This book is: genuinely heart-warming without being cheesy.
Other elements: family, self-acceptance, being different, mother-daughter relationships, body image.
Read it: if the cockles of your heart are chilly
Overall rating: 8/10
You already know that I loved North of Beautiful, but I wanted to take a minute to tell you a bit more about why I loved it.
Terra Cooper seems perfect at first glance: a tall, blonde teenager with a meticulously toned body and small town family. She spends hours each day working towards perfect, waking up early to run in freezing weather with snowshoes on, doing countless crunches, and, of course, layering on carefully applied makeup to hide the large port wine birthmark across her cheek. She’s tried every supposed cure out there, but nothing – no matter how painful or drastic – has been able to fade the birthmark. So she hides it and goes along the best she can, trying to be as perfect as she can while pretending to herself and the world that she doesn’t feel as broken as her family is under the tyranny her emotionally abusive father.
Enter a boy and an adventure. Terra has the chance to travel the world for the first time, and her mom comes with her. As the two women leave their home behind, they each find a part of themselves they hadn’t known they were looking for.
I’m going to be honest: I wasn’t expecting much from this book after reading the summary. But it surprised me. It’s deeper and more complicated than it sounds like it’s going to be and the parallel journeys that Terra and her mother take are genuinely inspiring. It’s classic YA and kind of a double Bildungsroman, as Terra learns who she wants to be and Terra’s mother finds a return to the self she’s forgotten how to be.
I’m cringing at how cheesy my description sounds, but the book itself is too well written to feel trite or syrupy. My heart was warmed.
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