Patron Saints of Nothing


Jay meant to write to his cousin Jun in the Philippines. Yet life keeps happening and now there’s Spring Break and a place at the University of Michigan awaiting. However when his father tells Jay that Jun is dead, he’s knocked sideways. Jun was always there, the cousin who showed compassion, whose letters spoke of his inner turmoil at the injustice he saw in the world, and his plans for the future. What happened to Jun?

Such is Jay’s need to find the truth that he travels to Manila to stay with his uncles and aunts. Yet what happens when there is a silence, that every sense of Jun has been eradicated- it’s like Jun never existed! Can Jay unpick the threads of his cousin’s life, disappearance and eventual death to discover the young man with such a life to live, seemingly? Thereafter, what is the truth about the Philippines? Could it be as Tito Maning describes, that Philippines is an inspiration where ‘people are held accountable for their actions’? Or could it be as Jun, and then Mia and Grace, describe and experience? Additionally, who is Jay? Is he Filipino, or American? He has shoes in both courts, and feels American, with memories only of the Philippines. His Philippine relatives consider him truly American. Can he hope to fit in anywhere?

Patron Saints of Nothing is a phenomenal YA novel. It contemplates truth, consequence, belonging and purpose so thoughtfully and empathetically. Bookwagon is proud to recommend this outstanding book to our older, teenage readers.


Patron Saints of Nothing

Randy Ribay

(Little Tiger Press)

Patron Saints of Nothing opens as Jay is close to spring break. He has a place at university and feels as though he’s drifting until he’s awakened on a Saturday morning with chilling news. It seems his cousin Jun has died. While Jay struggles with feelings of guilt, he’s also dismayed by the silence around his cousin’s death. Although they’ve lost touch, as Jay owed his cousin letters, the rest of his family is silent and guarded. What has happened to Jun? Furthermore, while Jay is an American immigrant, and the Philippines a long ago place, his father is in regular contact with his brothers and sister. He must know something!
Jay’s need to find the truth becomes a burning issue so that he forces his parents to agree to him travelling to the Philippines. Surely Jun’s parents and sisters will speak of Jun? Furthermore, won’t they want to remember him and reminisce? It seems as though nothing could be further from the truth!
While Jay seeks clues from family members, an unexplained link on his phone, a new friend, and thereafter the letters Jun has sent him over the years, chinks of truth emerge. Who was Jun? What was his life? Can Jay, a Philippine- American hope to understand this different world? Additionally, where does he belong really?
Patron Saints of Nothing is an outstanding YA choice for older readers. Bookwagon attended a talk by Philippine born Bone Talk writer, Candy Gourlay last year. She reminded us of the Philippines’ exploited colonial past, its earlier history, and its current situation. Randy Ribay takes us there, so that we capture a glimpse of this nation, respectfully, realistically and sympathetically. Bookwagon recommends this title for older, teenage readers.

Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. ALA notable title, Kirkus starred selection. 


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