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Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Review by Lauren
Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: 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.
Review: For the Cybils Awards this past year, Patron Saints of Nothing was one of the 7 YA Fiction nominees. While I did enjoy the book overall, it was still a three star read for me and not a book that I’d want to re-read in the future.
One of the things that I loved most about Patron Saints of Nothing is that it mostly takes place in the Philippines, which I don’t know much about. I like reading books set in non-U.S. countries and being able to learn more about the culture. For example, I had no idea that President Duterte has a war on drugs in the country, which essentially allows people to kill drug addicts with very few repercussions. The book definitely explains things a bit more, but it was just horrifying to learn this. Addiction is a disease, and that doesn’t make the person addicted any less human.
I did feel bad for Jay. He cut off contact with his cousin, Jun, so to learn that Jun has died has really affected him and made him realize that maybe he could have done more if he’d stayed in touch. It’s hard to look back and think “if only” and Jay talking to Jun might not have changed his outcome in any way. I did feel like there was some judgement that was unwarranted, or at least I thought was a bit much, as the book progresses. I didn’t think it reflected well on certain characters, especially Jay.
Patron Saints of Nothing, at its heart, is about family. Jay gets to know more of his extended family, and I liked most of them, and I think it’s great that the book ends with him wanting to learn more about the Philippines and the culture there. Granted, he has one uncle that is very much an abusive man, and while there’s a softer moment with him near the end of the book, I still don’t think he’s redeemed himself. I didn’t expect any big shift here, but it’s just something I wanted to note, since the uncle is Jun’s father.