Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gateway 8: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

This was a really good book. The main character is Terra. Both she and her brothers are named after map related things because her father was a mapmaker. A humiliated mapmaker as he bought into a fake map supposedly from ancient China. Her brothers are both old enough that they are away at college or out on their own, and Terra is in high school. Her mom is overweight, and her dad is hateful and cruel to her and her mother. And Terra has one other strike against her, a huge port wine stain birthmark on her face. She's learned how to cover it with makeup as she's gotten older, in fact, she has a very hot boyfriend. Terra's outlet is art. She creates collages that represent people and things in her life. When a guest speaker at school gives Terra a suggestion of a new laser surgery that is supposed to fix this type of birthmark, Terra decides to try once more to get rid of this defect. On the way back home from the first treatment, it is a snowy, icy day, and they have an accident. The other car involved includes a Chinese boy named Jacob, and his adopted mom. Jacob looks like a goth, but Terra sees he has a cleft lip scar. This is why Jacob was probably given up in China as normally boys are not adopted.

Jacob and Terra connect, as do Jacob's mom and Terra's mom. After a bad holiday experience with her brothers, Terra's oldest brother invites her and her mom to visit him in China where he works. Jacob and his mom choose to go along, as they keep trying to visit the orphanage he came from, but keep hitting brick walls. The trip is a growing experience for all involved. And in a good way, they all come back changed. But Terra must decide if she wants to give up the "perfect" boyfriend that she doesn't "deserve" with her looks for someone like Jacob, who she has instantly connected with, as he just seems to "get" her.

Awesome, awesome story. I look forward to reading more by this author.