"Brilliant, honest, and equal parts heartbreaking and soul-healing." Laurie Halse Anderson, author of SHOUT
"A singular voice in the world of literature." Jason Reynolds, author of Long Way Down
A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin's murder.
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.
As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity.
About the Author
Randy Ribay was born in the Philippines and raised in the Midwest. He is the author of After the Shot Drops and An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes. He earned his BA in English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his Master's Degree in Language and Literacy from Harvard Graduate School of Education. He currently teaches English and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Read an Excerpt
I sleep in on Saturday because I’ve got no plans beyond gaming with Seth later tonight after he finishes his shift at the sock store. So after what I’ll generously call brunch, I shuffle downstairs in my joggers and an old T-shirt, sink into the living room couch, and fire up my PS4 to make some progress in this one-player game where you battle massive robot dinosaurs in a post-apocalyptic Earth.
I don’t know how many hours into this session I am when my dad’s suddenly standing behind me like he’s learned to apparate.
“Jason, can you pause your game for a second?” he asks.
“I’m almost at a checkpoint,” I say.
“Jason . . .” he starts and then falters. He tries again. “Jason, I have something important to tell you.”
“Hold on.” I know I’m being an ass, but I’m pretty sure this is probably going to be about college or something and I don’t really want to talk about that anymore. Plus, I’m in the zone fighting this mech-T-rex that’s already killed me, like, a million times.
“Jay,” he says.
I slide down a hill and draw my bow and arrow, triggering the slow-motion mode. I release two arrows in quick succession. Both hit the beast’s energy core, drawing heavy damage and narrowing its HP counter to a sliver.
“YES!” I say.
“Your Tito Maning called.” He pauses. “Jun is dead.”
My fingers slow, but I keep playing. I’m not sure I heard him right. “Wait—what?”
Dad clears his throat. “Your cousin Jun. He’s dead.”
I freeze, gripping the controller like a ledge. I suddenly feel like I’m going to be sick. On the screen, the mechanical creature mauls my avatar. My life drains to zero. The camera pans upward, mimicking the soul’s skyward path.
The words finally land, but they don’t feel real. I was just thinking about my cousin last night. . . .
“That’s impossible,” I say.
I sit up and shift so I’m facing Dad. He’s still wearing his nurse’s scrubs, and his salt-and-pepper hair is disheveled like he’s been running his fingers through it. Behind his glasses, his eyes are bloodshot. I glance at the time again. Mom’s at the hospital, and he should be, too.
“I thought you’d want to know,” he adds.
“When?” I ask, my chest tightening.
I’m quiet for a long time. “What happened? I mean, how did he . . .”
I can’t say the word.
He sighs. “It doesn’t matter.”
“What?” I ask. “Why not?”
“He’s gone. That’s it.”
“He was seventeen,” I say. “Seventeen-year-olds don’t randomly . . .”
He takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes. “Sometimes they do.”
“So it was random? Like a car accident or something?”
Dad puts his glasses back on but avoids looking at me. He says nothing for a few beats, and then quietly, “What would it change if you knew?”
I don’t answer because I can’t. Doesn’t the truth itself matter?
I should be crying or throwing my controller down in anguish—but I don’t do any of this. Instead, there’s only a mild confusion, a muddy feeling of unreality that thickens when I consider the distance that had developed between Jun and me. How do you mourn someone you already let slip away? Are you even allowed to?
Excerpted from "Patron Saints of Nothing"
Copyright © 2019 Randy Ribay.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A beautifully written and poignant novel, Patron Saints of Nothing focuses on contemporary events that few (if any) YA novels (or any novels that I know of) address—Duterte’s “war on drugs” in the Philippines and its devastating impacts on families. Randy Ribay’s protagonist, Jay Reguero, is a Filipino-American high school senior leading a typical, rather mundane adolescent life in Michigan. When he learns of his cousin Jun’s unexpected and suspicious death in the Philippines, however, personal regret and curiosity compel him to travel to Manila during spring break to visit his extended family and find out the truth behind Jun’s murder at the hands of Filipino authorities. Soon Jay’s “detective work” leads him to a host of discoveries he never anticipated. He learns a great deal about the country of his birth, the family he hasn’t seen since he was a child, and the personal consequences of national politics. While this story features numerous elements that you’d expect to find in a YA novel—friction between teens and their parents, budding romance and its inherent complications, dilemmas regarding identity and the future—Ribay’s novel transcends the trappings of the genre and depicts compelling moments of epiphany as Jay arrives at uncomfortable but necessary truths about how well we actually know those we profess to care about, the complex motives that drive human behavior, and our ability to control our own destinies. Highly recommended.
I'm glad that I purchased this book. The story is great and deeply felt.