Patron Saints of Nothing

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
Patron Saints of Nothing Book Poster Image
Heartrending tale explores grief, Philippines' war on drugs.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the Philippines and its rich culture, history, food, and language. There are words and phrases in various Filipino dialects. They'll also learn about President Rodrigo Duterte's violent war on drugs, and the author lists recommended reading material at the end for those who want to learn more about the topic.

Positive Messages

Compassion, communication, curiosity, and courage are important themes. Don't be so quick to judge. Speak up when injustice is happening. Read up on current events and make informed opinions. It's important to remember everyone's humanity. People make mistakes, but that doesn't mean they are bad.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jun is compassionate, kind, respectful, and selfless. He always wants to do what's right and help others. Jay learns how important communication is when dealing with grief and how important it is to speak up and take action when injustice is happening. Mia is a fearless and curious reporter who wants to expose the truth and make the world a better place. Tita Chato runs an organization that helps victims of sex trafficking. Grace continues Jun's work as a way to honor her brother.


Jun was murdered because of the war on drugs. There are mentions of articles and descriptions of photos that depict some of the gruesome murders happening in the country. The story begins with a scene about a lifeless puppy. Journalists in the Philippines receive threats and some are killed if they write articles criticizing the government and the war on drugs.


Characters have crushes and kiss. There's also one character who was sold into sex trafficking.


Characters use variations of "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "dick," and "hell."


Patron Saints of Nothing discusses the poverty and inequality in the Philippines by contrasting the country's slums with the metropolitan areas of Manila and Jay's life in America. Brands mentioned include Nike, Google, Instagram, Facebook, World of Warcraft, Land Rover, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The plot revolves around the war on drugs in the Philippines, and there are mentions of San Miguel beer, marijuana, cigarettes, and "shabu" which is a slang term in the Philippines for meth.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Randy Ribay's Patron Saints of Nothing is a powerful and heartrending coming-of-age tale about 17-year-old Filipino American Jay Reguero, who goes to the Philippines to uncover the truth about his cousin's death. Compassion, communication, curiosity, and courage are important themes. Readers will learn about the Philippines' culture and history, President Duterte's violent war on drugs, as well as words and phrases in various Filipino dialects. The war on drugs is a large part of the story, and there are mentions of articles and descriptions of photos that depict some of the gruesome murders happening in the Philippines. The book also mentions that journalists receive threats or are killed in the Philippines if they write any negative articles about the government. There are references to San Miguel beer, marijuana, cigarettes, and "shabu" which is a slang term for meth. Characters have crushes and kiss. Another character is a victim of sex trafficking. Strong language includes variations of "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "dick," and "hell."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byenyessa44 May 21, 2021

A really good young adult book.

I believe this is a really good young adult book. This raises awareness of other cultures and some can definitely relate to this book. Warning: there is some vi... Continue reading
Adult Written byCoco7922 December 16, 2020

Bad words but good message

The book had a lot of violence and swearing in it, but it had good messages.
Teen, 13 years old Written byRatings4U September 17, 2020

A beautiful, powerful, and stunningly accurate account of the drug war in the Philippines.

5/5 Stars & a Must-read
Age 13+
Violence- 3/5 Depictions of gory scenes, vividly described brutal pictures, and story revolves around grief and loss of... Continue reading

What's the story?

In PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING, 17-year-old Filipino American Jay Reguero is almost done with his senior year of high school and planning to attend the University of Michigan in the fall. But things change when he learns that his cousin Jun, his childhood best friend and pen pal, died as a victim of President Duterte's war on drugs. His family hasn't provided many details about Jun's death and refuses to talk about him. Jay can't believe that his cousin would get involved with drugs, so he decides to spend spring break in the Philippines to discover the truth. As family secrets are slowly revealed, Jay learns more about himself, his family, and the side of Jun he never knew.

Is it any good?

Randy Ribay has written a heartrending and powerful coming-of-age novel that explores grief, complex family relationships, and identity. He brilliantly highlights the Philippines' rich culture and history while also exposing some of the horrific issues happening in the country, such as the violent drug war, poverty, and sex trafficking. Although the main reason Jay journeys to the Philippines is to find out how Jun died, he also learns a lot about himself and reconnects with his Filipino heritage. There are many instances where Jay is called out for being too American to truly understand what's happening in the Philippines, but part of Jay's growth and character development involves his learning how to seek out the truth and speak out when injustice is occurring.

Jay's family members grieve differently, some choosing not to show any emotion or acknowledge Jun's death, but a shocking plot twist leads to a poignant moment for the characters to mourn together. As Jay spends more time in the Philippines and details of Jun's life and death are slowly revealed, readers will see the Patron Saints of Nothing is a story of courage, curiosity, communication, and compassion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the heavy themes of Patron Saints of Nothing. Is it important for teens to read Jay's story? Why or why not? How does the book deal with violence, drugs, and poverty? How do these issues affect the characters?

  • Did you know about President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs in the Philippines before you read this book? Do you think it should be more widely discussed in school?

  • How do the characters demonstrate communicationcourage, curiosity, and compassion? Why are these important character strengths?

Book details

  • Author: Randy Ribay
  • Genre: Coming of Age
  • Topics: Activism, History
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Kokila
  • Publication date: June 18, 2019
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
  • Number of pages: 352
  • Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: May 26, 2021

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Asian stories and coming-of-age tales

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