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.