Monday 10 June 2019

ARC Review | Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Title: Patron Saints of Nothing
Author: Randy Ribay
Publication Date: 27th June 2019 by Stripes
Format: ARC via Netgalley (352 pages)
Target Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBook DepositoryWaterstones

Trigger and content warnings: Grief, references to sex trafficking, references to sexual abuse, drugs and addiction.
Rep: Filipino-American Own Voices, lesbian side character.


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.


My Thoughts

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle - Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

This is such an incredibly eye-opening book, exploring grief and the drug war currently being fought in the Philippines through the eyes of 17-year old Jay. After the death of his cousin, Jay travels to his father's home country of the Philippines to search for the truth and obtain answers to questions that are being ignored. 

I felt like the first half of the book was a little slow to get going, with the setting and characters needing to be introduced first. We know his cousin Jun has died but nobody is saying how or why, prompting Jay to begin his own investigation. He faces a lot of prejudice from Tito Maning, his father's brother/cousins father due to the fact that he is Filipino-American as well as the fact that Jay is relentless in his search for the truth, something that Tito Maning would rather stay hidden.

This is definitely a coming of age story that portrays Jay going from being a typical American teenager to someone who wants to discover more about his heritage and the country he was born in. He isn't a selfish character by any means but throughout his journey we're able to see him become more educated about how poverty stricken the Philippines are and to want to be a part of making this country a better and safer place. He spends a lot of time being unsure about his future and of his place in the world but we are able to see him slowly become more confident and sure of himself as he grows as a person.

The writing from Ribay is stunning in itself. He is able to unfold the story of Jun at exactly the right pace needed, nothing is too rushed or too slow. Jay is experiencing much of the country for the first time so we are able to see much of it through his eyes. His descriptions of the Philippines, especially the slums and poorer areas, give you the sense of being right within the middle of it all. The crowded streets and the poverty being suffered by so many is shown and not told.

It seems like it would all collapse with a strong enough gust of wind, like it would all go up in flames with a single tipped candle - Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay  

I was incredibly shocked by the realities of the drug war in the book, an emotion the author is able to prompt easily. Jay is often described as being 'ignorant' towards what is truly going on and I found myself realising just how ignorant I have been towards a lot of what goes on in the world. It's very easy in western countries to create a bubble around yourself and to not fully understand the severity of events occuring in other countries. This book definitely prompted me to do further research into the events described in this book although characters in the book often say that it's difficult to understand what exactly is happening unless you are experiencing it every day.

This book is truly something special. Ribay has a way with words that had me constantly highlighting passages every couple of pages. Jay's story is one that will create conversations and will have me making a concious decision to keep myself educated amid this ongoing war.

* I received an ARC copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes included in this review are subject to change.       

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