Foxes by Suki Fleet
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay New Adult Gay
Tags: Romance, Psychological – Grief/Death of a Friend, Homelessness, Mental Health Issues, Bullying, Prostitution, Illness, Scarred Neuro-Atypical MC, First Love, Melancholy
Length: 328 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
When Dashiel’s body is found dumped on an East London wasteland, his best friend Danny sets out to find the killer. But Danny finds interaction difficult and must keep his world small in order to survive. By day he lives in an abandoned swimming pool and fixes electrical devices to trade for supplies, but by night, alone, he hunts sharks—a reckless search for dangerous men who prey on the vulnerable.
A chance meeting with an American boy selling himself on the streets throws this lonely existence into disarray. Micky is troubled, fragile, and Danny feels a desperate need to protect him—from what, he doesn’t know. As Danny discovers more about Micky, he realizes that what Micky needs saving from is the one thing Danny can’t help him fight against.
To save Micky, Danny must risk expanding his world and face something that scares him more than any shark ever could: trusting he will be accepted for who he is. If a freezing winter on the streets, a sadistic doctor, and three thousand miles don’t tear them apart first, that is.
Have you ever seen or read about a couple so in love, so selfless around each other, so in sync, you just know this is what predestined soulmates look like? Irrespective of age. You may have been a soulmate naysayer until you read about/met/saw this couple, but their story and their love is so palpable – what they do and how they behave – it breaks through your scepticism. Danny and Micky are one of those couples. Foxes is a love story that makes your soul ache from the sheer beauty of the romance woven into a melancholy backdrop, one that makes your own heart beat and break and tighten… and thaw, right along with Danny’s huge, endlessly compassionate one.
Written in first person, Foxes has one of the most beautiful and illuminating narrators in Danny. Danny is both a reliable and unreliable narrator. Reliable, because he’s learned a lot about what makes people tick and he’s fair in his opinions. Unreliable, because he doesn’t know his own worth and beauty. He doesn’t see how he makes a huge difference in his corner of the world. It’s interesting to see other people through his eyes but more interesting to see how others think of him reflected back. Sure, some people have hurt him and mocked him, bullied him, he has visible scarring on his face, he’s eighteen and lived rough for a year. But others love and respect him more than he may ever know. He tries to hide himself in the night, within the homeless people of London. He also lives among young street workers, people he thinks shine and glitter so brightly.
“This is glitter-bound London,” he’d say to me, pointing out the boys who looked like boys and the boys who looked like girls. I’d blush in the darkness, though I didn’t know why at the time, other than I found some of the boys beautiful, especially the ones he said looked more like girls.
He also lives among sharks, people his close friend Dashiel told him were dangerous. People who mistreat and scare others, something the compassionate and gentle Danny cannot understand. Now that Dashiel is dead, dumped like trash, Danny is grieving, but he can’t let his best friend’s memory fade. He can’t let his death be brushed aside like Dashiel didn’t matter. Like he never existed. Now Danny has a notebook permanently attached to him. He spends the night walking the local streets, writing down everything he can about the punters who seem predatory – car details, descriptions, times, dates – they’re all in his notebook. Danny may have a jumble of thoughts at times, he may be verbally economical, but he’ll look out for the people who glitter and keep an eye on the sharks who want to snuff out their light.
In Danny’s world there are also good people who do little – sometimes bigger – kindnesses for the kids living on the street. People like Diana who runs a café and helps out where and when she can. I absolutely loved Diana.
Diana can seem pretty intimidating. Everything about her is loud and bright, from her violent green headscarf—that does sort of match her brightly patterned wrap dress—to her shiny purple flip-flops. But she has the biggest heart. She’d take care of the whole world if she could.
Flower Lady is another who helps out, finding odd jobs for Danny here and there. Sometimes supplying Asian cooking for him. Danny fixes things, phones mainly, to make a small amount so he doesn’t starve, but Diana and Flower Lady supplement this when they can – when Danny lets them. He lives in an abandoned public swimming pool, has done for about a year. His “roommate” is Milo, a returned Iraqi war vet who has a prosthetic limb, loves herbal teas and doles out pieces of practical wisdom to Danny, when he hasn’t drunk his PTSD numb.
He takes a sip of tea and pulls a face. “And third. What’s wrong with pretending? Is it raining fucking peace and happiness out there? Did I miss something? Because if not, I’m okay with a whole fucking world of pretending. You see this palace?” Milo gestures around. “Warmest fucking palace in all of Persia.”
There’s also Dieter, one of the working boys, who gives Danny a hard time. He likes to call Danny Loki. For a while in the book Danny’s name isn’t used, it’s Loki. Even when he meets the latest young street worker, Micky, he’s introduced this way. Micky needs his phone fixed so Dieter brings him to ‘Loki’. Danny has never seen anyone who glitters quite like Micky – an androgynous American boy who is pale and thin with the blondest hair, who wears hotpants and sheer tops in a freezing London winter. Danny’s heart, which is basically another character in the book, beats fast for Micky. So much of how Danny is feeling, particularly around Micky, is related back to his heart. Once he meets the talkative and smiling Micky he wants to protect him from the sharks, from any harm that may come his way. He has never felt like this for anyone. He loved Dashiel as his best friend, as a kind of (street) mentor, but this, this is different.
There’s something about him, though, something that makes me hope he’s warm and safe. I don’t like imagining him glittering brightly on the dark streets. It hurts when I think about him out there.
It isn’t just phones and equipment Danny fixes. He inadvertently fixes a lot of the hearts and lives of the people he comes in contact with – some who respect his kind, caring nature, some who (quietly) love him, only he doesn’t see that like we do. He does what he does because it seems right to him, not because there is something to gain in return. What he does know, what can get to him at times, is he’s visibly scarred, which makes him aware people stare and treat him differently. He does hear the mean (jealous) voices, because they are never quiet, but he doesn’t hate them. He accepts them and knows there are reasons for their feelings. But he can’t accept Dashiel’s death. He’ll keep trying to find out what happened. Who’s to blame. He also can’t explain this intensity of feelings he has for Micky. He’s confused by it but it soon dominates his thinking and his writing.
Even as a connection grows between Danny and Micky, Danny cannot fathom how Micky would want him as anything other than the guy who is going to fix his phone. Micky is so beautiful. When they talk more, he believes that Micky has plans, but Danny can’t see past today. Danny has never been physically or emotionally intimate with anyone before – and he doesn’t interpret the little signs Micky sends him easily or correctly for a while. Danny doesn’t want to be given appreciation for the things he does. He doesn’t want Micky to ‘pretend’ to want him. To feel beholding – which is not the case whatsoever. Micky is patient. But even if he can paint on a happy face, and he does, even though he is sweet and outwardly fun, there is sadness within Micky, a fragility which draws the protective nature out of Danny. Danny’s first person narration does not dull anything Micky is genuinely feeling. Of course, Danny’s POV purposely doesn’t give you insight into Micky’s backstory, his demons, they unfold as the book progresses and as their relationship takes root and grows into something Danny cannot deny any longer.
I don’t want to say much more about the plot because things are slowly revealed as the story is told. The reveals, Danny’s and Micky’s, and the story itself would be ruined if I outlined them in this review. I’ll add general info now and some quotes and GIFS.
Bits and Pieces –
The setting is well written. London was atmospheric. Cold. Stark but beautiful, in a non travel brochure way. I hate the cold but these kids are abandoned and are numb everywhere, so physically freezing is all relative to the emotional. I wanted to rug up as I read. I wanted to bring Danny and Micky off the streets. Dytryk, too. I wanted to know they’d be okay. It just reminds me that some children are callous castoffs from their families, so sadly and easily falling through the cracks of our society.
The secondary characters are interesting – Donna, Vinny, Milo, Dytryk, Flower lady, Dieter, Benjamin. And Dashiel, whilst dead, is very much alive via Danny’s thoughts and actions. Throughout there’s a real sense of people doing it tough trying to survive, struggling to keep some kind of roof over their heads. There’s also a sense of community and camaraderie amongst the young street walkers, the homeless, and those on the periphery.
That Danny, who is so open to the reader, closes up around authority figures is very well written. It truly is indicative of the life. The fears. The interactions these kids have with people who generally see them as nothing more than a nuisance.
I don’t always say this, but I hope there is a follow up book to Foxes because I know there is more to tell. I’m scared, because that’s how I roll about characters I love, but I feel like I need to revisit Danny and Micky.
The blurb doesn’t do the book justice and kind of throws a potential reader off the primary story. This is a very hard book to define, so I get it – it’s taken me days to write a review. But… if you go in thinking mystery and suspense, which it could easily make you believe it is, you may be quite disappointed. It’s a love story first and foremost.