Hernandez presents the disintegration of Canada into a bifurcated society of haves and have-nots, a story made all the more terrifying for how much of it has already come to pass ... In prose that is sharp and honest, the novel serves as a glimpse into the anxieties of existing as other in daily life. Each successive chapter seems to reveal something uglier, and the sense of urgency this brings to the story is almost intimidating. Over the course of the novel, the author uses unwavering frankness to evoke both optimism and unease. The result is a narrative that charms readers into leaning in and then startles them into confronting a miserable set of circumstances ... Kay is a warm protagonist, against all odds. Though his world is crumbling, he remains a strong and persistent force in the novel, with no shortage of heart for those around him. Readers will be enveloped in the joy of his self-discovery and fearful at the threats to his safety ... Secondary characters are just as vibrant and lively ... not an easy read, for either queer or racialized readers who may be reminded of historical and contemporary affronts and assaults to their communities or for those readers of privilege bearing witness to them and reckoning with their own complicity ... Despite this, Crosshairs holds love as a powerful core motivator. It is full of loss and anger but still brimming with the joy of first romance, warmth of community, power of friendship, and importance of courage and pride. Crosshairs leaves readers with two promises. The first is that change is possible. If people with privilege can be motivated to take action against systemic oppression, souls can be saved and lives can be spared. The second promise is that without change, we are hurtling toward disaster. Consider this book a call to action. A demand for change, before it is too late.
Boldness incarnate. A laugh in the face of subtlety and propriety. These are fragmented phrases to describe Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez, and they do not go far enough. Hernandez writes for herself, for the communities she represents, and for anyone who has ever felt othered in society. Her feminism is intersectional, her prose electric, and what we’re left with is an astonishing feeling of what do we do now? ... this book is no educational treatise, and excels as an example of craft and characterization, not just as a political statement. Frequent fluctuations between past and present tense lend an immediacy to the novel’s prose.
Hernandez is unrelenting in her portrayal of the regular violence, assault and abuses faced by these Other-ized people in 'civil societies.' She excels in her ability to show the ease of even the most brazen fascism and the pervasiveness of the feelings and scenarios that elicit its subsequent rise. Every few pages, something devastating happens, either in real time or recollection, rendering the story more harrowing – perhaps especially if you’ve ever been a victim of such abuse ... It does make it hard, however, to decide whether to recommend this book and to whom. On the one hand, it is so vital to see queer people of color centered in stories, and there are a few moments where we do get to see Black and queer joy rather than pain. Hernandez’s voice and writing style lay vivid on the page, and her craft is evident from the jump ... On the other hand, the story at times feels like tragedy porn. Marginalized people deserve to have their stories centered and not always exist as a sad lesson for white people; Crosshairs may not be that ... Hernandez had several diversity readers involved in the project, so your quibble mileage may vary, but there are moments where it feels evident that a non-Black person is telling the story of this transmasculine femme Black person, regardless of the particular traits (queerness, multiracial/Filipino identity) the author and Kay do share. It renders Kay a bit flat, particularly toward the end. Who Kay is feels underfed compared to other characters. Kay’s cohorts jump off the page, but we never quite get a clear picture of who Kay really is, even with several drag queen flashbacks. Instead, Kay’s story feels like a vessel for others and not their own ... Hernandez is a talent undeniable. She’s an evocative, vibrant writer whose voice and point of view are an exciting addition to the literary landscape. An at-times tough (depending on your sensitivity to violence and abuse) but solid read, Crosshairs tells a story of battling against the insidious nature of fascism and white supremacy by being unabashedly yourself.
... a deft exploration of what it means to live in a world teeming with the violence of white supremacy, and what that means for how people survive. It's also an engrossing and perfectly paced story, a dystopian parable that lives so close to the bone of reality that it rings painfully true ... Hernandez does not shy away from the complications and conflicts of these characters who are simultaneously complicit and working to embody the resistance ... populated with characters of various genders, abilities and racial identities, all of whom are shown in their full humanity. Hernandez renders the necessarily messy work of undoing white supremacy for characters at every crossroads. Her prose is at once sharp and punctuated with moments of lyrical beauty, even interludes of poetry ... has an intimate quality that succeeds in centering love as the driving force of resistance ... the overall propulsion of the book is forward, toward an increasingly disturbing and corporeally arresting climax ... In Hernandez's skilled storytelling hands, white supremacy is the root of evil but it is not the center of the story.
The novel sparkles most when Kay recalls his days as a drag performer at clubs like Epic or Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, where he is better known as Queen Kay on the stage, throwing shade, kiki-ing with the other queens, and falling in love with Evan ... However, what the novel earns in these moments of charm, pacing and thrill, it diminishes with its frequent pedantries. Too often the characters announce, unprovoked, who they are, their politics, their identities, like a badge. Otherwise unnamed and unobserved characters get they/them pronouns, alerted with an asterisk, and, indelible, is the chant white allies of the resistance all over the country perform while lunging and holding staffs above their heads ... Perhaps one of these uncomfortable, performative exchanges could be overlooked, but they occur so often that one begins to question Hernandez’s confidence in her characters to illustrate the story and her readers to understand it ... Hernandez’s storytelling throughout is compelling, and she builds tension and intrigue as the story moves forward, leaving the reader ravenous for the outcome of this war ... However, as she aims to ensure everyone and every cause is included, she leaves very little, in terms of the character and values of the people in these pages, to be presumed or interpreted by her reader. From Palestine, to pipelines, to transgender people and bathroom access, to gender neutral pronouns, to the sterilization of Indigenous women, to the policing of Black lives, every relevant and contemporary socio-political issue is given occasion. It illustrates, perhaps, that being included, in and of itself, is not enough, and shouldn’t be the goal. Still, even in these moments where Hernandez misses the mark, it is strikingly apparent what she is striving for — to decentre whiteness. This is no easy task, and her only fault, perhaps, is that she has taken on too much ... Still, Hernandez’s novel brings Toronto, as it is known by its Queer Black, Brown, and Indigenous residents, to life. A rare and wonderful and formidable feat.
The development of Kay from a shy and awkward child to a proud drag queen was invigorating ... Hernandez does a masterful job of depicting the varied responses to these injustices. My favorite details in Crosshairs were the people of color who salvaged the tiniest bit of power and rights, and the price they paid ... War is messy, a concept that Hernandez captures in nuanced but touching ways ... I appreciated how allies had to constantly unlearn their white supremacist mindset ... While I loved how Hernandez depicted the buildup and nuances of the Renovation, I thought the ending was too abrupt and idealistic. It left me slightly unsatisfied, and I wish she had elaborated more ... Still, Crosshairs is a compelling cautionary tale about minorities and discrimination. This chilling dystopia provides a snapshot of a potential future for our world, which makes the book all the more harrowing. I recommend it to those who enjoyed The Hate U Give, as well as to anyone who wants to learn more about racism, queerphobia and ableism.
Flashbacks illuminate Kay’s backstory, including his drag queen days and relationship with Evan, and every character has a moment to tell their story. Hernandez delivers beautiful and heartbreaking scenes in a story that is hard especially because of how close it feels to our present.
... Hernandez’s sharp-eyed, queer dystopian fantasy is no gentle wake-up call. It is a blaring fire alarm and a call to arms against authoritarianism, white supremacy and transphobia ... At times, Hernandez’s prose style is gorgeously poetic. At other points, as when critiquing the authoritarian regime or the privilege of allies, the writing is openly didactic toward secondary characters who are little more than symbols and vehicles for argument. In these scenes, dialogue unfurls like political discourse rather than as urgent conversation about events happening around them. The subject absolutely merits impassioned appeal, but this aspect of the execution undermines its aim somewhat. Rhetorical appeals in fiction rely on two key things for effect: the reader’s absorption into the narrative and their identification with the protagonist. These phenomena encourage readers to let go of their defenses, effectively shutting down counterarguments, even when the story’s message conflicts with the reader’s prior beliefs. Kay is a brilliantly nuanced, fully formed character, both tender and brave, so identifying with him is easy. Where Crosshairs sometimes falls short, however, is in letting the reader fully engage and feel absorbed into the story. It’s hard not to see the forceful political appeal at work.
... vivid, angry, outspoken ... Kay provides space for others to tell their story ... illustrates (if there was ever any doubt) how the hatred for the 'Other' runs deep in America and across the western world. And yet, for all the harrowing imagery of violence and subjugation, of people rounded up and slaughtered because of the colour of their skin and their gender identity, Hernandez encourages a sense of hope; of white folks working alongside marginalised and vulnerable communities, not as saviours but to provide support in the fight against the forces of hatred and oppression.
... searing if heavy-handed ... Hernandez takes a scathing look at discrimination and capitalism in her disturbingly familiar look at Western culture, but, unfortunately, this often reads more like a how-to-ally manual than a novel. While the premise is well-imagined, the story suffers from a lack of nuance.
The juxtaposition is powerfully affecting. Beyond that, the disparate parts of this novel are uneven in quality and don’t create an entirely satisfying whole. One issue is that several key characters end up feeling more like allegorical examples than real people. Another is that, while Kay is an engaging protagonist and the details of his life would be sufficiently compelling if this novel were simply the story of his life, this novel is not simply the story of his life. Every time the story shifts back into the past, the plot loses momentum. In creating the Renovation and the Resistance, Hernandez is borrowing science-fiction conventions without fulfilling their promise. Taken altogether, every aspect of the novel feels underdeveloped and unfinished ... Earnest but disappointing.