Book Review: TJ Powar has something to prove

Maitreyi Bhararth

I can never really have enough of enemies-to-lovers books. Combine that with Indian representation, strong female leads, and combating stereotypes on beauty — I’m there.  

Jasmeen Kaur Deo’s TJ Powar Has Something To Prove resonated with me in ways that no other book has. For the first time, I was truly able to see myself in Deo’s book and connect with the main character in a unique way. Deo’s message about accepting body hair somewhat soothed the constant inner conflict I face when I see myself. Reading TJ Powar Has Something To Prove was cathartic in its portrayal of beauty, feminism, and self-acceptance. 

Not to mention the romance is fantastically written. 

Let me introduce you to Tejindar Powar, more commonly known as TJ. TJ really has it all: a debater’s quick mind, soccer skills, beauty, friendships, and even a secret boyfriend. She also has a lot of body hair — not that she lets anyone see it. TJ is happy with her life on the surface. Underneath her perfected exterior, however, lie her insecurities about her body hair. TJ grows tired of constantly hiding her own body hair. But when she finally tries to accept her real body, she loses her boyfriend and is ridiculed and ostracized by her schoolmates. No longer popular, TJ is now consumed by the inner conflict of being beautiful for others versus being true to herself. Her debater’s mind bursts into action: if there’s an argument, one simply picks a side and defends it until the other team backs down. She sets out to prove a resolution: “This House Believes That TJ Powar can be her hairy self and still be beautiful” (Deo Ch. 5).

TJ’s journey is fraught with troubles. Interestingly, it’s her debate rival and sworn enemy, Charlie Rosencrantz, that supports her choice as he shows TJ how he values her for her personality and doesn’t care about her body hair. 

We can all guess who makes TJ’s story an “enemies-to-lovers” tale.

Charlie helps TJ accept herself and all her flaws. Her journey to acceptance is long and hard, but she makes valuable friendships in the end. 

What I love about this book is the author’s use of subtle details to make the story more realistic. Readers often feel the need to reach through the pages of the book and strangle the characters. In other moments, the depth of thoughts that these high schoolers experience reflect the stereotypes of beauty ingrained into society. TJ’s character development is clearest in chapter twelve. Her resolution morphs into a belief free from society’s stereotypes: “This House Believes That TJ Powar can exist as a hairy girl and still be worthy of respect.” I also really loved how the author created TJ’s peers to contrast with TJ’s views and highlight various aspects of her personality. TJ’s cousin is confident in herself and her character, revealing TJ’s insecurities. TJ’s best friend ridicules her out of jealousy that TJ is strong enough to accept her body hair despite the scorn of her peers. TJ’s rival teaches her about vulnerability. The book’s debate setting also leads readers to associate the idea of accepting and valuing body hair with logic and equality. These details made reading this book such an immersive experience.

Writing this article, frankly, felt quite scary to me. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to openly discuss the idea of body hair — I didn’t want to bring up my own insecurities. But TJ has inspired me to start looking at myself more kindly. I am learning to accept myself and my “real body”, as TJ would say. It is refreshing to see body hair acceptance appear in modern novels, adding to the burgeoning collection of boldly diverse stories.

To anyone who feels insecure about themselves in any way — be it beauty or intelligence or anything else — read this book. TJ’s story is the perfect inspiration for readers to accept their true selves and become better people.

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