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Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Young adult

Patron Saints of Nothing

by Randy Ribay

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Quick take

How far would you go to learn the truth about your family?

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A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin's murder.

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth—and the part he played in it.

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Patron Saints of Nothing

It was a day of soil, sunlight, and smoke. Curtains thin as bedsheets glowed gold as roosters called out from the backyard on the other side of concrete walls and single-pane windows. On the floor of the room my father and his two brothers had shared growing up, my mom held me as I held a lifeless puppy and cried. The oscillating fan hummed, blowing warm air on us every few seconds.

I was ten, and it was my first time back in the country where I’d been born. A few days earlier, my family had driven the eleven hours along frightening roads from Manila to Lolo and Lola’s house in the Bicol Region.

When we arrived, we found that their dog—an unnamed mongrel chained to the cacao tree out back—had just given birth to a litter of puppies. Only one lived. The mother refused to care for him, so I had taken the task upon myself. I held him close to keep him warm. I tried to feed him by hand, dipping my finger into a bowl of evaporated milk and then offering a drop to the puppy’s impossibly small mouth.

However, the puppy would not drink the milk. Maybe because of the grief from losing his brothers and sisters, or maybe because of his mother’s rejection. Whatever the reason, his breathing grew shal¬low. His movements slowed. Each time he blinked, his eyes remained closed longer and longer until they never reopened.

At that point in my life, I had encountered death only in fiction. I had heard about other people’s relatives dying. But I had never seen death up close. I had never held it.

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Why I love it

I was drawn to this fierce #OwnVoices novel because I love YA that both promises a great story and teaches me something about a culture I'm not familiar with. The Patron Saints of Nothing delivers on both counts.

Randy Ribay dedicates this novel to "the hyphenated" before diving into the story of Jay Reguero, a Filipino-American teen whose world is turned upside down when he learns that his estranged cousin has been murdered as part of President Duterte's brutal crackdown on drugs. Motivated to uncover the truth of his cousin's life and death, he travels to the Philippines to confront family secrets and honor his relative's legacy.

Rooted in fact (and equipped with an in-depth bibliography on Duterte's regime), Jay's story is both heartbreaking and lyrical. The book moves swiftly and encompasses everything from the intricacies of family politics, to the difficult feelings that accompany growing up as an immigrant in a homogeneous community, to the complexity of teenage crushes. I was deeply moved by Jay's journey and the way his relationships with his family, his culture, and his plans for the future developed as he searched for the truth about his cousin.

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Member ratings (308)

  • Lauren B.

    Saint Louis, MO

    This is an excellent, current book - through fiction, it exposes deep injustices happening right now in the Philippines. It's well written and will spark you to learn more about current & past events.

  • Katherine W.

    Paragould, AR

    I thought I was a reasonably well informed adult who knew much about the world. I was wrong. This YA book has much to offer everyone, especially those traveling through the morally gray areas of life.

  • Kendra D.

    Schuyler Falls, NY

    So much more than a traditional coming of age story. Family reconciliation, coming to terms with how multi-faceted people are, and remembering the value of understanding where we come from. Beautiful

  • Jacob T.

    Chicago, IL

    Definitely gave me insight to something I wasn't aware was happening. I think the author approaches the actual reality of the story with such care. Not everything/everyone being good or bad hit me har

  • DeAnn A.

    San Antonio , TX

    Philipino, Philipino-Americans usual have a strong opinion of Dutuerte and the drug war in the Philipines. Ribay does a good job w capturing both sides of the argument, all thru a 17yo male narrator.

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