When Mitya was two years old, he swallowed his grandmother's sewing needle. For his family, it marks the beginning of the end, the promise of certain death. For Mitya, it is a small, metal treasure that guides him from within. As he grows, his life mirrors the uncertain future of his country, which is attempting to rebuild itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union, torn between its past and the promise of modern freedom.
Poignant, lyrical, heartbreaking ... Mitya and I actually have little in common other than the year of our birth, but I couldn’t help thinking of him as a kindred spirit. It’s also a testament to how warmly, and with so much endearing detail, Kazbek characterizes Mitya and his worldview .... The books that always hit me the hardest are the ones I keep thinking about long after I’m done reading them ... Part mystery, part fairy tale, part economic commentary, part exploration of the impact of the fall of the USSR, and all heart and spirit and earnestness, Little Foxes invites readers to fall in love with a child falling in love with himself and his friends and his own power and his own transformative potential amidst a backdrop of chaos.
Mitya is an immediately sympathetic character ... This English-language novel feels notable for its linguistic texture. Intermixed with unique Russian terms and slang, the novel’s style reminds the reader that the language the characters are speaking is different from the one in which the book is written, often to humorous effect ... Little Foxes Took Up Matches is an effective, charming novel in its own right, but it has the misfortune to appear at a time when many people are turning away from Russian culture in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine ... Mitya’s sexuality and gender identity are handled gently throughout ... Mitya is still in the process of becoming, and he hasn’t made any irrevocable choices yet.
A lot happens in Little Foxes Took Up Matches, but the plot and narrative are never rushed ... Despite, or perhaps because of, her own issues and struggles, Marina unconditionally accepts Mitya for who he is, even as he is in the process of understanding it all himself. Both their lives are messy and complicated, full of heartbreak but also potential and possibility. Kazbek is wise to allow that messiness to reign throughout the book, and the conclusion feels real because of it ... a lovely debut confronting gender, gender identity and the pursuit of all kinds of justice. Although Kazbek sometimes tells more than she shows, her use of fairy tales and respect for youth culture, the power of music and teen crushes, as well as weightier themes such as trauma, make her first outing a success.