Featured Review: All of Us with Wings (Michelle Ruiz Keil)
About This Book:
Michelle Ruiz Keil’s YA fantasy debut about love, found family, and healing is an ode to post-punk San Francisco through the eyes of a Mexican-American girl.
Seventeen-year-old Xochi is alone in San Francisco, running from her painful past: the mother who abandoned her, the man who betrayed her. Then one day, she meets Pallas, a precocious twelve-year-old who lives with her rockstar family in one of the city’s storybook Victorians. Xochi accepts a position as Pallas’s live-in governess and quickly finds her place in their household, which is relaxed and happy despite the band's larger-than-life fame.
But on the night of the Vernal Equinox, as a concert afterparty rages in the house below, Xochi and Pallas accidentally summon a pair of ancient creatures devoted to avenging the wrongs of Xochi’s adolescence. She would do anything to preserve her new life, but with the creatures determined to exact vengeance on those who’ve hurt her, no one is safe—not the family she’s chosen, nor the one she left behind.
*Review Contributed By Olivia Farr Staff Reviewer*
ALL OF US WITH WINGS is a quirky fantasy/magical realism that follows three main points-of-view. First, we have Xochi, a seventeen-year-old running from her past. Then there is Pallas, a twelve-year-old who lives with her larger polyamorous family and rock group. The third is that of a cat, Peasblossom. Xochi is working as a live-in governess/companion for Pallas. Pallas’s parents and the adults frequently have wild parties after concerts and such in the house.
It is after/during one such party that Xochi and Pallas make a silly spell that brings two fey siblings into the world. They protect Xochi against the hurts that she has received. This is relatively background to the main story of Xochi finding her way and really coming of age, while Pallas is entering puberty and her world is also changing.
What I loved: This is a complex storyline which gives a lot to consider and evaluate. The fantasy elements are interwoven really well into the overall storyline. The added point-of-view by Peasblossom also adds quite a lot to the story and gives it something really unique. Xochi is a complex character who we understand more as the book goes on and she reflects on the past and current events in her life.
What left me wanting more: At places, I found the book hard to follow. There are a lot of characters in the book, and some people appear for a short amount of time. As such, I found myself flipping through the book to try to figure out who they were and to try to remember how everyone is related. Adding to that, a lot of Xochi’s past is slow to reveal, which could work, but often left me feeling a little lost within the plot. Around a third of the way into the book. I started to feel like I could follow it better, so it does get easier as you go.
I was also surprised by the amount of sexual situations (some non-consensual and/or statutory rape type situations) as well as the drug use/abuse, which I had not anticipated and which appear throughout the book. I would add content warnings for these and for sexual harassment, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and unequal power dynamics in sexual situations.
Final verdict: Overall, this is an interesting story which weaves fantasy into a contemporary coming of age type story. I found the first part difficult to follow but it became easier to follow further into the story. The main characters were intriguing and well-crafted (Xochi, Pallas, and even Peasblossom the cat). I would recommend for mature readers who are looking for something different.
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