Author ~ Suki Fleet
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 8 February 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance, New Adult
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.
Beautiful and Profoundly Moving
There are few authors who can move me as deeply as Suki Fleet seems to do with every single book she writes. It’s not just her beautiful writing, or her ability to draw young people of so much color, detail and dimension that they jump off the page. It’s more than that. It’s the heart, the richness, the compassion of her books that thrills my soul every time I read a Suki Fleet novel.
She speaks so knowingly and deeply about the gay experience, the joy, the pain, the fear, the tenderness, the loneliness, the entire rainbow of emotions that drives the hearts of young people dealing with being different, the disapproval of so much of the world, and the world’s indifference to their plight. It’s the last that drives “Foxes”.
“Foxes” is a book about young people, but not a book specifically for young people. Somehow, even in the richest, most advanced liberal societies of the West, including Great Britain and the United States, we have forgotten to care about our children. That must be so, because why else should there be so many hundreds of thousands of them selling themselves on the streets, homeless, living in hell in a world that doesn’t seem to give a damn about them? In the United States, 40% of all homeless kids are LGBT, kids thrown out in the cold by their supposedly-religious parents or whose lives were such hell that starving in sub-zero temperatures is preferable to the Hell their lives with their families have become. For these forgotten kids, a good day is one in which they manage to get some hot food, don’t get beaten, robbed or raped, or suffer from frostbite walking the freezing streets. They are without medical care, proper clothing and, most important, someone to hold them and make them feel wanted and safe.
The main character in “Foxes” is Danny. Danny lives in an abandoned pool house in a local London park. For some reason, the water was never shut off, and that provides him with the basic amenities needed to stay alive – or at least that and a pile of scavenged blankets that constitute his “nest”. He spends his nights searching for sharks. Sharks are the predators who prowl the streets looking for young people whose need and poverty they hope to exploit for their own selfish pleasures. Their victims are the kids who’ve fallen through the many cracks in the Social Service system, often because of issues beyond their homelessness. Danny is one of those kids. He’s 18, but incapable of functioning in the real world, with all those people pressing in on him. Some think he’s stupid, but he’s not. Far from it. He suffers Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s on the spectrum (autism), but he’s actually quite smart and insightful. He earns the few pennies he uses for food and cooking gas repairing cell phones and computers. Even worse than his disability, in his own eyes, are the vivid scars that slash across his face and body, marking him a freak, a boy so ugly no one could ever like him, let alone love him. He’s had only one real friend in his life, a young street hustler named Dashiel, a young man of uncommon hope and good nature who could see Danny beyond his scars and the long hair he hides behind. Dashiel turned up dead recently, his body found in a barren bit of land, tossed away like refuse. The reason for Danny’s nighttime forays is to find the shark who murdered him.
And that’s the real secret of Danny. He’s a superhero. He’s a boy with a heart so big that even his circumstances cannot destroy his hope, his kindness and his heroism. In the course of “Foxes”, he saves one boy from suicide, another very innocent, underage kid from starving in the street, another when she’s tossed from a moving car in the middle of the night, and yet one more from dying of frostbite in the middle of a harsh London snowstorm. Danny is a fixer. He fixes phones. He fixes people. It breaks his heart when he can’t fix things. Sadly there’s no one around to fix him.
That is, until he meets a beautiful young street hustler, Mickey, who asks Danny to fix his phone. Danny has never seen such beautiful eyes as those of this lost American-born street kid. His heart goes out to him as it hasn’t to anyone before, not even to his best friend, Dashiel. Danny protects him. He is Mickey’s touchstone. He knows his love can never be reciprocated, but somehow, it is. He finds it hard to believe, so he “pretends” that he can believe it, even though he knows it’s not real. Mickey is someone else for Danny to fix and save, and Danny is the only other human being with whom he feels safe.
He does yearn to touch Mickey, but refrains:
I think I’m beginning to understand something I never understood before. Sex isn’t always about sex. Sometimes it has nothing to do with desire. Sometimes it’s only about power and control. And sometimes it’s about destroying someone. And I don’t want to see anyone else destroyed.
Although Ms. Fleet’s characters are often uneducated, that doesn’t mean they’re not wise, because their hearts are smart, and they have dealt with realities that most people never dream of. They are old souls in bright, shiny, young bodies, looking for the same thing everyone else is: safety, security, love and family. It is the saddest thing in the world that these kids, more often than not, go without these critical necessities, even when they are fed and clothed by the charities that serve them.
“Foxes” is a profoundly moving book on many levels. The writing is absolutely authentic and lyrical. The characters, no matter how abused, are innocent, caring and lonely. Their big hearts are enough to light the London sky on even the dreariest of days. Ms. Fleet doesn’t judge, she celebrates. Her characters are of all races, sexual orientations, genders and gender expression. Danny loves that Mickey appears androgynous. Kids are not gay or straight, they’re lonely and overjoyed with sincere affection from any quarter, starved for touch, beauty and serenity.
Ms. Fleet has this amazing talent I’ve never seen in any other writer: making the abstract symbols in her writing as powerful and personal as the characters themselves. “Foxes” takes this to another level, a level of literacy and lyricism that will tug at the heart of even the most jaded, cynical reader. Foxes, sharks and pretending run, like silver threads, throughout the book. I must admit that I was stunned when foxes reappear near the end of the book, and speak more eloquently to the heart and compassion of the remarkable Danny than the dialogue, events and description in the rest of “Foxes”. It was nothing less than brilliant.
Danny is a lesson to us all – on how to open our hearts, despite our scars, how to embrace and accept all our children for exactly who they are, and how our society desperately needs to care more for our children, love them, not judge them, hold them close as the precious gifts they are.
I know my depiction of these abused homeless kids in London may come across as dreary and depressing. At times it is. But it’s also exquisitely beautiful. If you’re looking for a book that will move you deep within your soul, that will give you hope and stir your compassion, “Foxes” is the one.
This is one of the best books I’ve read in years.