Jesmeen Kaur Deo's debut, TJ Powar Has Something to Prove, is an entertaining and endearing YA novel that features a teenager working to redefine her own understanding of beauty.
Senior Tejindar "TJ" Powar is attractive, popular, a star soccer player and a member of her high school's debate team. She and her debate partner and cousin, Simran, are featured in the school's newspaper after they win a competition that qualifies them for the Provincials in Vancouver. Their victory is overshadowed, though, when the picture of TJ and Simran that accompanies the article is turned into a cruel "Hot Persian girls: Expectation vs. Reality" meme: TJ, plucked and pretty, is the "expectation" while Simran, who is Sikh and doesn't remove her body hair, is the "reality." Simran is unbothered but TJ is outraged: first, she and Simran are Punjabi; second, people are awful. She makes a resolution that she will no longer wax, pluck, thread any of her body hair to prove that hairy can be beautiful. But as the debate competition continues, TJ begins to wonder who exactly it is she's trying to prove wrong.
In this beautifully written coming-of-age novel, Deo covers topics of societal norms, beauty, self-identity, love, religion, family and friendship, all from TJ's sensible, determined point of view. Young adult readers will likely relate to TJ's frustration with social norms and her fight to redefine beauty for herself and others. Ultimately, she grows enough to understand it's important to see "beauty in the things that really matter." --Natasha Harris, freelance reviewer