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Young Adult Fiction 445
TJ Powar Has Something to Prove
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TJ POWAR HAS SOMETHING TO PROVE by Jesmeen Kaur Deo is a YA Contemporary novel in which TJ, a popular soccer player and debater, falls from public grace after reevaluating her relationship with her body hair. When TJ’s cousin is publicly shamed for her facial hair on Instagram, TJ, who’s always been religious about getting waxed and threaded, decides she’s no longer going to do either. Instead, she plans to embrace her natural body to show she can still be beautiful either way. TJ, though, doesn’t have the easiest time finding evidence for that resolution, but while she’s hurt and surprised by those who don’t support her, she’s even more shocked by the ones who do.

As soon as I saw the topic of this book, I knew I had to read it. The societal pressure we have about removing body hair, particularly in relation to women, is so intense. It’s something that’s drilled into us from a young age, and even though there’s been pushback against it in recent years, it still hasn’t really made a dent in mainstream culture. Getting to go on this journey with TJ is cathartic in many ways, and I love how the author allows TJ to come to a realistic realization in the end, as opposed to a feel-good conclusion that’s more fantasy about how things should be than how they actually are.

I’m also a sucker for the enemies-to-lovers trope, and the way Deo uses it is fantastic. Charlie, TJ’s debating nemesis for just about as long as she can remember, has a huge arc in the story. The more I got to know him, the more I loved him, and I appreciated all of the personal details I learned about each character the deeper we got into the plot. I fully shipped Charlie and TJ and found myself flipping through the pages to find their next scene together.

That being said, I still really enjoyed all the other subplots with TJ’s friends and family. The book blends so many elements together seamlessly: an important subject matter, friendship, romance, familial trauma, coming of age, and so much more. It’s entertaining, relatable, and everything you want in a story. TJ POWAR HAS SOMETHING TO PROVE proved to me that Deo is an author to watch, and most importantly, to read.
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