All of Us with Wings
By Michelle Ruiz Keil
Published June 18, 2019 by Soho Press
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 really blew me away. I went into it not knowing anything more than the description, and it was everything that’s in the blurb and so much more. This is magical realism set in the late 1980s in San Francisco, and it’s a weirdly lovely book.
There’s a hint of Jane Eyre to the story. At 17, Xochi has fled her past and landed in San Francisco, where she’s befriended by Pallas, the precocious 12-year-old daughter of rock stars Io and Leviticus. The family hires her to be Pallas’ governess and she moves into the family mansion, which is also inhabited by various band mates.
For a girl who doesn’t have a family (her mother ran off and her adopted grandmother is dead), Xochi quickly finds a place in the ramshackle household. When she and Pallas unwittingly summon two creatures who want to protect Xochi and harm anyone who hurts her, all hell breaks loose.
The book is beautifully written and really evokes San Francisco in the late 1980s. At the same time that Xochi is finding a family of sorts, she’s falling in love with the city. There’s lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It’s gritty and realistic in some ways, but it’s also magical realism (one of the multiple narrators is a cat). I was totally absorbed in the story, even as I cringed at times at some of things the Xochi does.
This book feels fairly mature for YA. There’s lot of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and although the main character is a teen, there are multiple narrators of varying ages. It’s a coming of age story, but it’s the sort of book that may appeal to adult readers as well as teens.
CW: rape, drug use, relationship between a teenage girl and an older man
I received an ARC from the published via Amazon Vine.