REVIEW: ‘All of Us with Wings’ by Michelle Ruiz Keil is a beautifully crafted fantasy
Set in San Francisco, All of Us with Wings is a story about taking charge of your own life.
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.
All of Us with Wings wastes no time dealing out the tough topics it’ll explore throughout the book. I’d like to point out that there is a lot of triggering content in this book. The biggest ones being sexual and drug abuse. With that being said, Michelle Ruiz Keil does set the story up well.
The two main characters are Xochi and Pallas. Despite their small age difference the two are very alike. They’re lonely and feel invisible, so when they meet they are naturally drawn to one another. Their relationship is the best. It was genuine and the light of this book.
The night of the afterparty is when the girls jokingly make a potion without realizing they would actually summon mystical creatures into their world. When the story reaches this point I kept questioning what this book was trying to be. Is it a fantasy? Because it didn’t always feel like one. Or is it supposed to be a YA coming-of-age story? Honestly, it was borderline New Adult because of the serious content. It was hard to follow along with the plot of All of Us with Wings. The point is that this book tries to do too much and complicates an already complex plot.
The transitions between the different POVs felt off and it made the pacing confusing. That’s why I can’t say I truly enjoyed this book even with the beautiful and descriptive writing. Michelle Ruiz Keil’s writing is far different from anything I’ve read which I loved. A cat gets its own POV and I appreciated the way she humanized the character. It was unique. She knew the story she wanted to tell through All of Us with Wings but sadly it wasn’t for me.
Overall, I didn’t love or hate All of Us with Wings. There are a lot of issues I have with the story especially concerning the romance but I can’t get into it without spoiling the story. I did find the last 30% of the book to be its saving grace. Everything becomes clearer and the characters grow into ones you might actually want to root for. I’m not sure if that was Michelle Ruiz Keil’s intentions all along but I’m glad I kept reading.
All of Us with Wings is a story that will show readers how fragile humans truly are.