Patron Saints of Nothing – book review

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Patron Saints of Nothing
by Randy Ribay
Realistic Fiction
* * * * Stars (Great!)

Filipino teenager Jay Reguero is all set to follow the path he’s supposed to – graduating from high school, going to college, finding a job, etc. Instead, he gets some really terrible news. His cousin, Jun, is dead. When Jay tries to learn more from his parents, they deflect, and Jay decides he will go all the way to the Philippines to visit his family there and see if he can find out what really happened. Wanting to know about Jun, and actually confronting his tough police officer uncle (Jun’s father) are two different things, however. When Jun presses his uncle for answers, he only says that Jun was a drug addict. Then he kicks Jay out of his house for his impertinence. Jay has trouble believing this about Jun. He may have been involved with drug addicts – helping them, perhaps? – but a drug addict himself? Additional sleuthing indicates that Jun was concerned about his country’s president’s no tolerance policy on drugs. According to a website link Jay was sent by an anonymous friend of Jun’s, hundreds if not thousands of people are being murdered by the police (not arrested, gunned down) for being in any way connected to illegal drugs. With the help of his cousin Grace, and new friend Mia, they attempt to discover the truth about Jun.

Rich in Filipino culture and atmosphere, readers will get a glimpse of life in the Philippines – hot, sticky, beautiful, and, in some cases unequivocally harsh. Jay himself is a student of his own culture and people, having grown up in the US far away from the politics and social problems of his other home. This is a sensitive exploration of a difficult topic that will hopefully raise awareness of some of the atrocities that occur when governments design policies that go to war on drugs. An Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee 2021.

Reviewed by YA Librarian