Monday, December 30, 2019

Stand-Out YA Novel Eye-Opening and Moving

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

High school senior Jay Reguero is floating through his comfortable, complacent American life without really knowing—or caring—what he's going to do next.  When he hears that his cousin, Jun, has been killed in The Philippines as part of President Duterte's aggressive war on drugs, he's outraged.  For the first time, he feels real passion about something and that's clearing his cousin's name.  Jay hasn't seen his cousin in years, but there's no way kind, earnest Jun—the boy who wrote Jay countless thoughtful letters, even when Jay didn't bother to reply—could have gotten himself caught up in anything as dirty as drug dealing.  It just doesn't make sense. 

Full of shame, Jun's immediate family refuses to talk about the incident or hold a proper funeral for him.  Jay wants justice, so he convinces his parents to let him travel to The Philippines, ostensibly to become better acquainted with his homeland and the relatives he hasn't seen for so long.  Once there, he does everything he can to find out what really happened to Jun, risking both his place in his uncle's home and his safety in his search for answers.  As Jay digs into Jun's life as well as that of Jun's domineering police chief father, he comes to a shocking, infuriating conclusion.  Determined to confront his uncle and get justice at any cost, Jay finally gets the real, astonishing truth, which rocks his entire world.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay is a timely, hard-hitting novel that explores an underrepresented place and an issue that has been underexplored in the media and in fiction.  Ribay's descriptions of The Philippines make it obvious that he's been there—the details brought to mind the sights, smells, and phrases that I remember from the year I lived in the country.  While I think Ribay's depiction skews more toward the negative than the place really deserves, the vivid setting does create an authenticity that makes the story even more poignant.  Patron Saints of Nothing features a cast of complex, sympathetic, flawed characters about whom I came to care very much.  Its plot kept me turning pages wanting to know what was going to happen to them all.  Although the novel is sad, it's also moving and, ultimately, hopeful.  Unique and touching, it's a stand-out book that deserves all the accolades it's gotten.

(Readalikes:  I can't think of anything like Patron Saints of Nothing.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, depictions of illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

2 comments:

  1. This sounds excellent thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I thought this one was very well done and I really enjoyed it. I, too, felt like I learned a lot about the Philippines while reading it, which I like.

    ReplyDelete

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