Patron Saints of Nothing

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 27 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

From the opening sentences alone, I knew Randy Ribay’s Patron Saints of Nothing was a special book. The novel introduces us to the main character Jay through a vivid memory of his first holiday in his country of birth, the Philippines, conveying a sense of nostalgia and a reflective look at what meanings can be grasped from death and life. And so Randy Ribay begins his reflective, passionate and emotional exploration of teenage life, culture clashes, grief, injustice, violence,  loneliness, humanity and so much more. In this review (if you can call it that), I will try my hardest to express how grateful I am for this novel and how it has moved me in ways I didn’t expect.

A short summary: Nearing the end of his final year at school, all Jay has planned is playing video games before he heads off to university. But, when his parents tell him his cousin Jun has been killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines, Jay’s world turns upside down. As Jun was estranged from his family years ago, nobody wants to tell Jay what really happened, so he decides to take a risk and travels to the Philippines to discover the truth about Jun’s murder.

Before reading this book, I knew very little about the war on drugs in the Philippines, and like Jay, I had no idea about the number of people that have been murdered under Duterte’s promise to rid his country of drug crime. In the last few years,  thousands have lost their lives and it breaks my heart that I knew so little about it, living like much of the world in my little bubble of ignorance and safety, and that there is nothing I or anyone I know can do about it. Jay’s shame is tenfold as he recounts his last moments with his cousin years ago and how he stopped replying to the letters Jun kept sending him. He begins doing his own research about the drug war, grappling with his emotions over the articles he reads and the photos of victims he discovers, feeling helpless and wondering how the Jun he knew could ever have been involved, sure he wasn’t. Feeling like nothing else is important in his life right now, he gets permission from his parents to stay with his family in the Philippines, determined to get all the answers he needs to set his cousin free.

Randy’s reflective exploration of Jay’s grief about his cousin and his learning about the drug war, not only in these early chapters but in the whole book, moved me so much I often had to put the book aside to cry and move on to something else because it hurt so much. Randy’s writing inspired me to read what I could find online, too look at photographs and watch videos. Even if there is little I can do, I believe everyone who reads this book will do the same as me and that is getting the word out about what is happening in a country so far away from us. Patron Saints of Nothing  portrays the reality of the drug war in raw detail, discussing all sides of it, and also incorporates other issues like poverty and sex trafficking that many of us in the West do not often think about. If I was in school right now, I would want to study this book and if I was an English teacher, my students would be. I think it is so important that so many people read it to gain awareness and an understanding of life outside of our own. Too often we take our lives for granted and we do not stop to gather the moments, no matter how small, to our hearts.

The fiction element of Patron Saints of Nothing, revolving around Jay and Jun’s stories and their families, opens up a touching telling of family and culture. I have spent a lot of time in South East Asia in the last few years and though I haven’t been to the Philippines, there were so many descriptions of the country that reminded me of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I loved reading Jay’s perspective of everything he saw during his visit, from the delightful and beautiful to the sad and worrying. The discussions about culture, particularly the difference between Filipino and American, between Jay and his family was so interesting to read and really made me think about what makes us who we are.

While the plot is carried by what happened to Jun and who he became, one of the most moving parts of the story are the characters and their interactions with each other. Jun is the heart of the novel. The way he is remembered and his story discovered throughout the novel was so moving, I sobbed as if I had lost him, too. I felt Jay and Jun’s family’s grief deep in my body. And I really cannot praise Randy enough for that. It is one thing to write about a difficult topic so well, but another to use words to paint relatable and lifelike characters that you end up really caring about. Jay himself is a brilliant character to follow throughout the novel. The way he grew and began to understand himself and the world was so beautiful to read. Jay’s Aunties were two of my favourite characters, as were his cousins and Jun’s sisters Grace and Angel, and a certain character who ends up helping Jay seek out answers. While I struggled to understand Jun’s parents, especially his father, there was one particular part of the novel with them that made me cry the hardest. There were a few other characters who had roles to play in bringing the whole story together and bringing it to a point of completion. And I loved every second of it.

I hope I have in some way been able to express how wonderful I think this novel is. Thank you for writing it, Randy Ribay. Patron Saints of Nothing is an extraordinary book, breathing a story that will stay in my heart for many years. I know I did not do it justice here, so all I can say now is to beg you to get yourself a copy of this gorgeous book on the 27th of June. I definitely will be.
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WOW what an incredible book!! i loved seeing the journey of his character development. he started off as someone almost immature and the person at the end of the book was completely different. he really grew up. 

i loved the awareness this placed on the situation within the Philippines, especially the drug war and how much worse it has gotten since their current president came into power and how many people have died as a result of that. although it wasn’t the best at this, it put a lot of emphasis on how drug users are people too and they shouldn’t be shot like they’re parasites but the problems that cause drug use should be evaluated instead. it covered many other problems as well, including sex trafficking and poverty. 

i loved how he wanted to connect to his own culture and i loved how much he was willing to listen to other people’s experiences and how much growth he went through by doing this. 

just...it’s so hard to talk about a book you adored without just screaming READ IT so...read it!!
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Wow. What an absolutely entrancing read. 
Patron Saints of Nothing is a quiet novel but it packs an emotional punch. 
The story follows Jay Reguero, a Filipino-American teenager whose world is turned upside down when he learns that his cousin Jun, with whom he used to exchange letters across continents, has been killed as part of Filipino's President Duterte's war on drugs. No one in his family wants to talk about what happened to Jun, so Jay returns to the Philippines to find out the truth about his cousin's last moments. 

I was absolutely blown away by the lyrical prose Ribay uses to describe the the culture and economy of the Philippines and how Jay reconnects with his native roots. Quite like Jay, I hadn't even heard much about President Duterte's cruel and illegal war on drugs or how the media circumnavigates the issue, but I feel like I've learned a lot about the innate bias of journalism and the desire to tell the truth even if it might end up hurting you.

This is a political novel that opens up a rarely discussed topic to the wider public, a novel that shows that a person is never just one thing, that our stories are shaped by who tells them at what point in time and what we take away from that story. Emotional, gripping and powerful, Patron Saints of Nothing should be read by anyone who wants to learn more about Filipino culture and social issues, or anyone who needs a powerful read to remind themselves that no one is perfect but as long as we try our best, the world might follow.
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*Arc provided by Netgalley and the publishers*

Omg I loved this book. 
As someone who is has grown up similar to the protagonist, being half Filipino and half white, I could relate to how disconnected he feels and how he didn't know much about what goes on in the country of origin.
I loved how the portrayal of the characters as they felt real, like how as I was reading it this could have been happening at the exact same time.
I enjoyed how although the main plot was to find out what happened to his cousin, Jun, there were also other things that occurred. 
I would recommend this book to everyone, partially due to the representation and how everyone should know about what is going on in the Philippines, to just having an enjoyable and powerful read.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

WOW. I loved this. I truly did!

I loved the representation of a diaspora child. As somebody who is Bengali but born in Sweden, I can relate to Jay and his struggles with the language, culture, and history. I think it was really well-written and explored and I know that diaspora children will see their struggles reflected in Jay's story.

I really enjoyed how everything played out. It didn't play out the way I did, which was a nice surprise. I thought I had the book all figured out but, alas, I didn't! In many ways, the plot is quite predictable but it managed to subvert my initial thoughts about it.

I would call this, in some ways, a Filipino "The Hate U Give" and I recommend it to anyone who wants another political drama.
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This wasn't as great as I hoped it would be. I wanted to read this so badly and was stoked beyond words when I got approved for the ARC on Netgalley. I can't say one thing that didn't hit the mark with me, but several little things. But I didn't hate it, far from it. I just didn't love it with my whole heart and soul like I wanted and hoped I would.
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Jason is an American Filipino about to start college.  He lives with his family and spends much of his time playing video games.  He is out of touch with his extended family in the Philippines and their culture.  He lives life as an American student and has little to do with his culture.
Until he learns of the death of his cousin Jun.  Jason’s father isn’t saying enough about the death and Jason is determined to learn the truth.  He receives an anonymous text saying that Jun was murdered, wrongly and unjustly.  

Jason remembers Jun writing him letters that were never responded to, and he pulls these out to learn more and to feel a connection with Jun.  
As Spring Break approaches, Jason convinces his parents to let him travel to the Philippines to meet his extended family and to grieve with them over Jun.  He also wants to see if he can find out more about the murder but he is delving into dangerous territory.  President Duterte has declared a war on drugs and it is a ruthless war, with killings happening around the city. 

Respect for his culture and his determination to learn the truth must be balanced and this makes for a powerful and gripping read.  
Learning to grieve and say goodbye show us a heart-wrenching and heart-warming balance in the story and Randy Ribay has such a wonderful style of writing and bringing emotions to the forefront.  

An honest book with complex characters and a brilliant journey of discovery.  One to read! 
There is so much to learn, understand and enjoy in this YA book.
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What a wonderful book. I adored the characters and the story and the emotional impact of it. This is a book that people _need_ to read. Although it is a fictional story, the drug war is a truth and I think this may shine some light on a real problem. A story about family, love, and loss. I loved it and cried so many times. 

Full review to come.
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