Read: Patron Saints of Nothing

An American teenager travels to the Philippines to investigate the mysterious death of his cousin. While there, he learns more about his heritage and what matters to him in life.   

By Lindsay López-Isa Lamken

[Caution: Contains themes of drug use and violence.]

What Is It About? Jay Reguero is a high school senior living a typical teenage life in the American suburbs with his Filipino father and American mother. Suddenly, his life is turned upside down when he finds out that his cousin Jun has died unexpectedly in the Philippines. As kids, Jay and Jun would play together when Jay visited his extended family there. The two of them were close enough that they were pen pals for many years, but then they fell out of touch as teenagers. Jay is shocked by the death of his kind and sweet cousin. To make matters worse, nobody will tell him how — or why — Jun died.

Jay convinces his parents to let him go to the Philippines to mourn with the rest of his father’s family. He doesn’t tell his parents the real reason why he is going: to learn more about Jun’s death. While there, Jay struggles to connect with his relatives who see him as an outsider because he is too “American” and doesn’t speak Tagalog (the indigenous language of the Philippines). He also discovers the unsettling truth of Jun’s involvement in the dark world of drug trafficking in the Philippines.

Why We Like It:   

  • Patron Saints of Nothing acknowledges that young Americans sometimes feel excluded from their ancestry In America, Jay’s friends don’t understand why his Filipino roots are important him. In the Philippines, his relatives praise his “white” skin and then criticize him for not speaking the native language and for not knowing enough Filipino history. This leaves Jay feeling cut off from what he feels is an important part of his identity.
  • The book is a fast-paced and interesting read  Patron Saints pulls you in with mystery and action like a detective novel, but also delivers a realistic picture of the insecurities and challenges of being a teenager in the U.S.
  • Patron Saints of Nothing takes a thoughtful look at the problem of drugs in society – The book is honest about the harm that drug users and the illegal drug trade can cause in communities, but it also shows the dangers and injustice created by overzealous enforcement of drug laws.