One School, One Story: Patron Saints of Nothing


Bruna Souza, Staff Writer

This summer all students at Waltham High will be reading the novel Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. This book was one of sixteen summer reading selections that were initially chosen for the read-a-thon, an all-school event where students eliminate books until this book won with a majority of votes.

Patron Saints of Nothing is about an American-Filipino teen named Jay who travels to the Philippines once he finds out that his cousin has died there. He’s very skeptical of the reason behind his cousin’s death because no one will speak about it. The book is set during the War on Drugs in the Philippines which is a conflict that has been happening for years under the leadership of President Duterte. This conflict has led to thousands of deaths and significant political tension. 

Throughout the novel Jay’s story allows the reader to learn more about a recent political issue and make connections to other conflicts happening around the world. The intriguing story makes the reader want to learn more. 

You might be wondering why and how this book was chosen as the one that the entire school will be reading. Mrs. Tierney, the head of our library, and Mrs. Perna, WHS English teacher, lead the One School, One Story program each year. They work throughout the school year to make sure our school reads a book each summer that is both educational and interesting for students. 

Throughout the novel Jay’s story allows the reader to learn more about a recent political issue and make connections to other conflicts happening around the world. The intriguing story makes the reader want to learn more. 

— Bruna Souza

“We make every effort to have a committee of multidisciplinary staff, faculty, and students that spend from about October/November until the beginning of March reading all kinds of books,” said Tierney. The OSOS committee starts by making a list of books students liked in previous years, books the committee recommends, and books students select in a survey. Then the committee reads the books and eliminates some titles until there are only a few left. 

In fact, Mrs. Perna mentioned that in the past they’ve had to read over 100 books before they could narrow it down. It’s a long process before they can get to the 16 books read during the read-a-thon. This allows them to get a lot of input from the student community so that the final choice is appealing to a wide range of readers since rising eighth grades through juniors, teachers, and staff all read the OSOS book each summer. 

However, the read-a-thon only happens every other year which means that every other year they have to go through a slightly different process. There have been instances where the entire school voted on the book choice, and instances where they’ve narrowed it down to two books instead of just one.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I love the read-a-thon and I wish it happened every year, but as Mrs. Perna explained, it costs a lot and takes a lot of time to plan it, so it becomes really hard to do it every year. Plus, when it’s done every other year “both students and teachers have a lot more buy-in and want to do it, and it creates an excitement more than something that just happens every year.”

This is the eleventh year of the OSOS reading program. The program was developed during a time in our school culture when summer reading seemed like an afterthought. Previously, students weren’t required to read any specific book, so they didn’t feel encouraged to. “Summer reading just felt stale,” said Perna. “We started with the idea as how do we make it engaging and fun for people. Not necessarily work.”

“We were trying to figure out what’s a way that we can have summer reading but also get the whole community involved. Turn it into an activity where it’s not just the English department, it’s school-wide. It’s the custodians, it’s the lunch ladies, it’s the admin, it’s the students. Everyone is reading together,” said Tierney.

It’s clear that a lot of thought goes into the process of choosing a book for the school, so why not check it out.

All you’re required to do over the summer is read the book. There’s no required summer assignment corresponding to the book, just read it and enjoy it. However, if you are in need of resources or need help keeping track of the story in order to be prepared for the fall, the English department will soon be sharing more details. Including an event during this week’s Hawk Block where there will be activities as a fun way to introduce students to the book. There’ll also be activities during Advisory all week long.

Additionally, Randy Ribay, the author of the book will be coming to Waltham High School in the fall to speak during assemblies. I hope this motivates you to read the book, so that later during the fall, you may understand the drive behind writing this story, the author’s writing process, and have a lot of questions for the author.