Sunday, June 30, 2019

Review: Patron Saints of Nothing

Patron Saints of Nothing Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jay is a Filipino-american youth with one semester left of high school when he finds out his cousin in the Philippines has been killed. He convinces his parents to send him back to his aunts and uncles so he can try to figure out what happened.

Before you think this is a white savior narrative (it really isn't), I must say I was impressed by how the author used this story of a somewhat uninformed teenager to tell this story. Like many immigrant narratives, Jay doesn't feel he belongs in America, especially when coming home every day feels like coming home to the Philippines in food and cultural expectations, but then his family has insisted he learn and speak English, so in other ways he isn't Filipino enough. Traveling back to Manila he hears frequent protests that he (and his father) are the "ones who left," meaning they can't know what it's like there, and also shouldn't be making any judgments.

Since Jay and his cousin Jun are close in age, it's like getting to examine the same life if he had stayed vs if he moved away. And things obviously didn't go well for his cousin, who seems to have suffered unfairly because of President Duterte's war on "drugs" that also seem to be taking out poor, homeless, and other passersby on the side. Jay has to work hard to uncover the truth, all while living with family members that are more on board with the current administration than he ever could have expected.

This is a YA novel, but the stakes are real stakes and the main character has a lot to work out between the various conflicting opinions in the family, the true dangers he confronts while trying to find the truth, and his own grief. There is also the family and friends he left at ... home? He isn't even sure where home is. I felt the ending was meaningful and realistic.

I had a copy from the publisher through NetGalley, but it fit perfectly into my Asian reading goals for 2019. The book came out 18 June 2019.

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