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Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Randy Ribay’s Patron Saints of Nothing is a gripping and influential coming-of-age novel as it successfully employs themes of truth, justice, and cultural identity, well-deserving of a spot on anyone’s TBR. Ribay begins the novel with high school senior Jay having contradictory thoughts about his collegiate future. He returns home to the shocking revelation of his cousin Jun’s death amidst the drug war in the Philippines. He is further dismayed by the ease with which his family dismisses the news. Skeptical, Jay resolves to travel to the Philippines in pursuit of what really happened to his cousin.

Ribay’s work is particularly memorable as the first-person narrative provides an authentic perspective of a teenager’s internal struggles, such as Jay’s dissonance with Filipino culture and doubts concerning university, as well as external struggles, such as the looming threat of the drug war in the Philippines. The author pushes the importance of seeking the truth regardless of whether those around you remain silent. Although Jay was justified in his quest for the truth, he liberally passed judgment and blamed his family for failing to speak up. The author painted this as one of Jay’s more “heroic” qualities when, in actuality, Jay’s accusations came off as somewhat ignorant and disrespectful. However, this may have merely been a result of youthful immaturity, in which case Ribay did an especially accurate job at portraying a teenager. The novel’s relatability deems it a worthwhile read. As a first-generation American, it was validating to read about Jay’s story regarding his Filipino heritage. He recognizes his lack of knowledge on language and tradition, realizing that it doesn’t diminish his Filipino identity. Ultimately, Ribay’s Patron Saints of Nothing is a valuable read for people of all ages and backgrounds as it explores the significance of truth, justice, and identity.

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