Title: TJ Powar Has Something to Prove
Author: Jesmeen Kaur Deo
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 7th, 2022
Page Length: 368
Genre: Contemporary | Romance
Age Range: YA
Rep: South East Asian (Desi), Punjabi & Sikh, Speech Disorder, Plus-size, Asian Transgender
A charming rom-com about high school debater TJ Powar who—after becoming the subject of an ugly meme—makes a resolution to stop shaving, plucking, and waxing, and prove that she can be her hairy self and still be beautiful…but soon finds this may be her most difficult debate yet. Perfect for fans of Netflix’s Never Have I Ever.
When TJ Powar—a pretty, popular debater—and her cousin Simran become the subject of a meme: with TJ being the “expectation” of dating an Indian girl and her Sikh cousin who does not remove her body hair being the “reality”—TJ decides to take a stand.
She ditches her razors, cancels her waxing appointments, and sets a debate resolution for herself: “This House Believes That TJ Powar can be her hairy self, and still be beautiful.” Only, as she sets about proving her point, she starts to seriously doubt anyone could care about her just the way she is—even when the infuriating boy from a rival debate team seems determined to prove otherwise.
As her carefully crafted sense of self begins to crumble, TJ realizes that winning this debate may cost her far more than the space between her eyebrows. And that the hardest judge to convince of her arguments might just be herself.
Thanks to Books Forward and Viking Books for Young Readers for providing me with an copy in exchange for an honest review.
When Books Forward first approached me with this, I hadn’t heard of it before. I read the synopsis and knew I had to read it! This book challenges the idea of beauty, societal norms and the impossible expectations we put on ourselves to meet those norms. It is done so beautifully! There were many points in this book where I was moved or felt heard! I may not have the exact same experience as TJ and Simran, but I do understand what it’s like to be told you are hairy and how you don’t meet that beauty expectations of a female.
In addition to the powerful message that TJ is determined to prove, we follow her romance between her debate rival! I didn’t know that I needed debate in my contemporary YAs, but, yeah, apparently I do lol! The rivals-to-lovers trope is amazing in here and I was definitely routing for them! I didn’t feel like the romance was the center of this story though, which I was ok with. The focus was TJ exploring the expectations set on females to be hairless – her journey through that and her grappling with her own concept of beauty. I thought it was overall very powerful!
I loved TJ as a character. She was strong and determined, but still flawed – there was amazing growth with this character! I also loved the side characters. We have just as much understand of these side characters as TJ has – which sometimes is very minimal. As she opens up and learns more about our side characters, we as readers learn too! I loved Simran and Charlie for sure! But TJ’s best friends, Chandani and Pipper, were among my favourites for best friends! I wasn’t sure about the two of them, but the arc we get of their friendship was exactly what I could have hoped for! I would 100% read more from any of the side characters that Deo created!
I found Deo to be funny and many of TJ, Charlie, and Chandani’s one liners were having me laugh out loud! I think if you enjoyed books that went against the societal expectations of females, like Moxie by Jennifer Mathiew or The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Stevens, but want to explore beauty instead of sex.
I rarely ever write down quotes or remember quotes from books, but I ACTUALLY have a couple I wanted to share!
“What’s really a disease, and what’s really just diversity? Who gets to decide?”
“Those little comments are the hardest to shake off. It just cycles through your head forever.” “And you start believing it.” Chandani studies her manicure. “Next thing you know, you’re the one making the comments. Making people feel like shit”.
“That feeling when you realize there are worse things to be than ugly”.
“Hair has no gender, darling. It’s just hair. Do what you want with it, but it does not make you less of a woman. It does not make you less interesting, less worthy, or less deserving of desire.”