(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Penguin Random House for the opportunity to review this gem, and Bookworms Unite PH for making this blog tour possible.)
Patron Saints of Nothing is THE book that all Filipino readers long for, whether they know it or not.
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.
Randy Ribay’s writing is authentic, raw, and genuine. At first I honestly thought that this was gonna be just another novel claiming to be written by a Filipino but one that would only depict the Philippines superficially. Instead, I found myself reading a very authentic, raw and genuine depiction of the current status of my country and its people. Every little detail in this novel is, I tell you, true to how everything is in the Philippines.
Powerful representation of the Filipino youth. As a Filipino reader, I have always longed to see myself in the pages that I read. Sadly, there are very few (actually, almost none) that are published about us. And should there be some, they are usually unrealistic if not inventive. In Patron Saints for Nothing, I saw myself, my family, my friends, my home town, my country. I was in it, and I was represented.
For me, this is the the most important thing that this novel has done. It has made the Filipino reader feel like he matters – his circumstances, his experiences and his very existence.
Randy Ribay wasn’t afraid to name names, which just made everything in this book real – President Duterte, Senator Leila de Lima, Kian delos Santos. And I tell you, every time I come across a real, live person in this book, I get goosebumps. Because this is us making it known to whole world what it is like to live under not just a dictatorship but a murderous Duterte administration.
It is heartbreakingly honest, relevant and unforgettable. Jay and Jun’s stories are probably our modern versions of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. I know this is a big thing to say, but with the current war that the Philippines is facing, I cannot help but relate Jay and Jun’s circumstances to that of our heroes during the Spanish colonization. I commend how honest Randy Ribay was in all aspects of their story, and for making relevant and taking into the spot light once more the things that are seemingly becoming common already: the drugs, the killings, the murderous government
Needless to say, I highly recommend this piece of a gem even if you are not a Filipino, but especially if you are a Filipino!
Randy Ribay writes young adult novels and teaches high school English. He was born in the Philippines but grew up in Michigan and Colorado. He’s a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After living and teaching on the east coast for a decade, Randy now calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. In his all-too-sparse free time he reads, hikes, rock climbs, cuddles with his wife & two dogs, watches great TV (everything from Bachelor in Paradise to Battlestar Galactica), plays video games & tabletop games, and spends an ungodly amount of time on the Internet. He is represented by Beth Phelan at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.