Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction
June 18th 2019
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.
As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity.
I received Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay from NetGalley for an honest review.
“What would it change if you knew? I don’t answer because I can’t. Doesn’t the truth itself matter?”
What an incredibly gutwrenching and real book. I was completely drawn in with the writing style of Ribay. He makes the story jump out at you and punch you in the gut. Although fictional, the drug war in Manila that comes up with the book is a real thing within the Philipines. It is a problem and with me finishing this book, it really wanted me to find out information about it. It’s a terrible thing that the country has to deal with, and I consider myself fortunate that I don’t live in a country where there is corruption. Patron Saints of Nothing also has great LGTB rep with a highly diverse range of characters. I absolutely adored it.
“Truth is a hungry thing.”
The story follows Jason, a 17-year-old Filipino boy who only has a few months left before going to college. His family moved to America when he was only 1 year old. He also kept in contact with his cousin, Jun, through letters. However, over the years, he stopped writing to him. Between playing games with his best friend Seth and doing homework for school, he and his family have a pretty good life in the US.
But one day he finds out from his father that Jun is dead. Struck with grief, Jason wants to find out what happened. Since his father will tell him nothing, his mother lets him know that he was murdered. She also told him that Jun was a drug pusher and for him to leave it be. Of course, Jason is not the person to let something like this slide. Instead of spending his holiday playing D&D with Seth, he decides to take a trip back to Manila to visit his Titos and Titas and Kuyas. Although it’ll be nice for him to see them after years, he has one main goal – find out the truth about Jun’s death.
“Sometimes I feel like growing up is slowly peeling back these layer of lies.”
Jason is a really enjoyable character to read. Although he is Filipino, he doesn’t know a lot about the culture and the country he moved away from. Throughout the book, he learns more about the culture of the Philippines than he ever would have in America. It’s really nice to see Jason learning about his roots, because not only is he learning but we are as well. He is able to find out more about himself and truly understand where he comes from. His sense of identity is really highlighted and as the story goes on, Jason really starts to love and hate various aspects of Manila. He loves his family and the beaches, but there is also poverty and the problems the country has.
“It strikes me that I cannot claim this country’s serene covers and sun-soaked beaches without also claiming its poverty, its problems, its history. To say that any aspect of it is part of me is to say that all of it is part of me.”
Jason’s love for his cousin Jun is really heartwarming. The emotional rollercoaster ride he goes through to find the truth about his murder is sad.
“There are moments when sharing silence can be more meaningful than filling a space with empty chatter.”
Grace, Jason’s cousin and Jun’s sister is also a great character. Although very secretive hiding behind her books, her love for her brother and sister is obvious. I love the fact that despite what her father tells them, she knows right from wrong. She is willing to continue what Jun started, despite the warnings from Jason. Even though her father would never approve, she also has a girlfriend called Jessa. I kind of wished we were able to find out more about her though! I really loved her character growth and by the end, my heart was so full for her.
“If you have something to say, you should say it. If you are to figure things out, you can’t hide from them. Silence will not save you.”
Mia, Jessa’s 19-year-old sister, a girl who wants to become a journalist was super sweet. She was more than happy to help Jason find out more information behind Jun’s murder. The relationship between her and Jason was also great to read about. Although she had a boyfriend (or at least we are told she has a boyfriend, but only from word of mouth. Did she really have one?!) she was able to comfort Jason and make him happy. It was really heartwarming. I really wonder what might happen between her and Mia in the future. I love Mia and how she wants to be a journalist highlighting the problems within her country.
“F*ck anyone who tries to tell you who you are and where you belong. ”
Tito Maning is an absolutely despicable character. A police officer and a big supporter of president Duturete, he is a super controlling and demanding man who forced his family to forget Jun ever existed. He literally made my blood boil. He made Jason feel super small and insignificant because he didn’t have any knowledge about his home country. Although I felt Maning was a horrible character, were his decisions just? Did he do the things he does in order to protect his family?
As for other characters with Patron Saints of Nothing, I loved Tita Chato and Tita Ines. These are Jason’s lesbian aunties and I adore them. They love their family and are completely heartbroken about Jun. Tita Chato also runs an organization that helps girls out of prostitution and trafficking. I also really liked Angel, Grace’s sister. Super energetic and was more than happy to help Jason with what things were (food) and where things are.
Overall, Patron Saints of Nothing is an extraordinary story that will educate you and rip your heart out. This book has so much going on for it and I could not stop reading. Close family relationships, identity, politics, religion, it has it all. There is so much diversity within the book that it’s practically falling out! It is definitely a book that you do not want to miss. If you’re not crying by the end and feeling the need to do better, then I don’t know what to say! A fantastic book!
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