What It’s About:
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.Goodreads
Gosh…there is so much I love about this Patron Saints of Nothing that I feel like this review will be kind of long. I will try to keep it from rambling. To get it out of the way, the ONE thing that I didn’t like about this book was the reveal on what really happened to his cousin. When I read the blurb to this book, I thought there would be more mystery to the story. There was a little bit but once I got to the end, I was a bit disappointed in how it played out. Despite this small disappointment, the rest of the book was a honest and thought provoking multifaceted gem.
One part of the story that appealed to me was the quintessential coming of age story. Jay is in his senior year of high school with plans to attend college. Jay comes from an affluent family and his two older siblings are already well on their way forging their own paths. He’s expected to go to college and major in something that will lead him to a successful career but he has no idea what he wants to do with his life. Throughout the book, this uncertainty and the pressure from his family weighs on him.
Another facet is the complexity of Jay’s identity as a Filipino American. His dad is filipino and mother is white. Jay was born in the Philippines and his family moved to the United States for a better life when he was a baby. When he goes to the Philippines, which he hasn’t seen since a family trip when he was ten, he is in for a big culture shock and constant judgement against him for being too American or not Filipino enough.
The family and setting
The portrayal of family relationships in the book was amazing. It is probably my favorite part of the whole book. The communication and relationships between his parents and siblings are strained. Jay often feels like they don’t understand or care about him. The relationship between Jay and his cousin Jun is a major part of the story. They bonded during Jay’s last visit to the Philippines and they exchanged handwritten letters throughout the years. It was interesting to see Jay deal with his feelings of remorse and grief after Jun’s death. The unsteady relationships that he has with his aunts, uncles, and cousins in the Philippines were also very compelling. I would use the words distrust, fear, anger, and sadness to describe the relationships between them. But slowly, the story takes a turn and it was an amazing thing to experience.
The setting development of the book was also a highlight for me. I don’t know much about the Filipino culture, country, it’s people, or history. The author did an excellent job of including enough details on the way the country looks, the culture, history, and politics. This is the first book I’ve read that takes place in the Philippines and I really enjoyed learning more about it.
I remember seeing Patron Saints of Nothing on the Texas Library Association’s 2020 Tayshas list for young adult fiction and that it was a National Book Award finalist, I knew this book was going to be a standout novel. I could see a wide variety of readers enjoying this book because it has so many different aspects to it that I think many readers could relate to.