Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay – A Timely and Unforgettable Story about the Phillipine Drug War, Privilege, and Hope

Book review: Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.

Blurb:

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.

CW’s Review:

When some of my favourite Filipino bloggers hyped up this book and sung its praises, I was intrigued. When JM hosted the blog tour for Patron Saints of Nothing, and I read the powerful and personal book reviews by Filipino bloggers, I knew that Patron Saints of Nothing would be the kind of book that you just could not miss. And if there is any book that I want you to pick up based on my, and many other amazing Filipino bloggers’ recommendations (I’ve linked a bunch of reviews that you must read at the end of this review!), you should read Patron Saints of Nothing.

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Five Reasons To Read: A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai – A Wholesome Story About Matchmaking, Desi Identity, and Friendship

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai.

Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

CW’s review:

When I learned about A Match Made in Mehendi earlier this year, learned that it was about an Indian-American teen and that the story would be about matchmaking and love? I knew I had to read it. And after reading a string of fantastic diverse young-adult contemporaries, I’ve unofficially dubbed this year as ‘The Year of Diverse YA Contemporaries’ – and A Match Made in Mehendi is perhaps the hidden gem in YA contemporary.

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Five Reasons To Read: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – A Heart-Warming Story About Being a Teenager, a Mother and the Magic of Food

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Blurb:

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

CW’s review:

When the world tells you that Elizabeth Acevedo, author of the stunning and revolutionary novel-in-verse The Poet X, has written another book called With the Fire on High and that it is as incredible as her first book? You read it – because not only is With the Fire on High indisputably fantastic but, if you read it, you will definitely thank yourself for it later.

Told with Acevedo’s heart-warming and soulful prose, With the Fire on High follows Emoni, an Afro-Puerto-Rican teen and mother, and how she wrestles with being a mum, being a teen, daring to follow her dreams to become a culinary chef, and the weight of responsibilities to be and do all of the above at once.

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The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim – Perhaps The Best Book About Mental Illness, Asian Identity, and Family That I’ve Read – Ever

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.

Blurb:

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

CW’s review:

I received an ARC of the book from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book.

Take note of this review’s title: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim is one of the best books that explore mental illness that I have ever read – ever. Take note, because I absolutely mean it and I think everyone should read this book. The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling follows Hong Kong-Chinese-Australian teen Anna, who spends a lot of her time wrangling her younger siblings and making sure they are ready for school, helping at her father’s Chinese restaurant, and trying to be a teenager herself while her mother who stays in bed for weeks at a time. Don’t be fooled by this book’s bright and soft cover – though The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling has its sweet moments about teenagehood and first love, it also has some confronting and candid explorations of mental illness within Asian communities and its impact on family.

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Color Outside the Lines edited by Sangu Mandanna – An Anthology About Interracial Relationships; A Heartfelt Celebration of the Diversity of Love

TEXT: Color Outside the Lines: Stories about Love, edited by Sangu Mandanna. Hands of different skin tones holding each other frame the image. Bottom right corner: Xiaolong the pink axolotl with an upside down flower hat at the center of a stamp, with the text "Review by CW, The Quiet Pond" around it.
Summary:

This modern, groundbreaking YA anthology explores the complexity and beauty of interracial and LGBTQ+ relationships where differences are front and center.

When people ask me what this anthology is about, I’m often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it’s about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it’s about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer’s much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love.—Sangu Mandanna, editor of Color outside the Lines

CW’s review:

A few years ago, I talked about how I craved a good story about interracial relationships beyond a superficial portrayal. I wanted a story that examined the ups and downs of being in an interracial relationship, to illustrate the complexities and the challenges and the dynamics and the unexpected joys and challenges of being in an interracial relationship. Such a book would have held my whole heart with its words, as I craved to see my experiences of being in an interracial relationship depicted in a story. Thus, when I saw that Eric Smith, one of the contributing authors to the anthology, announced that Sangu Mandanna was editing the Color Outside the Lines anthology, I was over the moon; I was thrilled beyond words.

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