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  • Mandy McHugh

Crosshairs, Catherine Hernandez: A Review

On the surface, this book hit all my marks: stunning cover, striking premise, and scarily-prescient themes. I was thrilled to be approved for this title.

Following massive Canadian floods, a government-sanctioned regime called The Boots sparks "The Renovation," a horrifying time where The Others (LGBTQ+, disabled, and communities of color) are rounded up and forced into labor camps. Kay, a former drag queen, joins the resistance, and in a gripping narrative, writes a letter to her lost love as he trains for revolution. I don't even know where to begin with this book; there are so many things I want to say. First, Hernandez's writing style is beautiful. Her prose is lyrical and flows and often reads like spoken word poetry without even trying. Her structure of dual timelines, both past (told through flashbacks) and present, juxtaposed against each other drew out the symbolism of each moment, creating raw, powerful emotion that poured from every word. This is my first Hernandez read, but I was smitten with the writing and finished this in two sittings. Issues-driven, character-driven, and plot-driven, Kay is a magnificent narrator with insightful command of memories and his journey to self-discovery. Liv, Bahadur, Beck, and Firuzeh are also wonderful, and I appreciated Hernandez giving space for each character to tell his/her/their own story. It's not a coincidence that there is room for every voice; even with a revolution, even with the horrors, everyone deserves to be heard, and Hernandez weaves these voices with bold honesty and stark truths. This book is more than just beautifully-written words, though. So much more. Crosshairs could've been ripped from the headlines (apparently I keep picking books that reflect the current society instead of escapist lit). From labeling and discrimination to the terrifying realization that the events Kay describes seem not only real but possible, I wanted to scream by the end. Its warning is grim, dire, and enlightening. There will be disturbing imagery, anecdotes that are hard to read yet impossible to ignore. From the notes in the beginning, Hernandez says for some, this book will be uncomfortable, and I had that in mind as I reflected on the characters' interactions in relation to current events. Performative justice is a topic that stands out, especially given the prevalence of social media. How people who are not The Others can pick and choose when and what trivial act to post, receive praise for their good deeds, but when push comes to shove and their comforts are threatened, they turn their backs. If anything, this book will make you acutely aware of shortcomings and biases and that is such an important freaking awareness to have right now. We want to be allies, to have allies, but we also need to teach people how to be allies, and that's more than just a motivational quote during Black History Month or a black square Instagram day of silence. Overall, Crosshairs is a lyrical, urgent, beautiful story of pain, injustice, and hope. This is the type of text everyone should read. Big thanks to Atria and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

 

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