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SAINTS OF THE HOUSEHOLD by Ari Tison Kirkus Star


by Ari Tison

Pub Date: March 28th, 2023
ISBN: 978-0-374-38949-9
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Haunted by the specter of violence, two Bribri American brothers contend with their hang-ups and each other as their senior year of high school concludes.

Two weeks have passed since the incident in the Minnesotan woods when Indigenous Costa Rican brothers Jay and Max brutally beat up Luca, the school’s star soccer player, in defense of their cousin Nicole. The brothers are now social pariahs among their peers, enduring counseling sessions to get their lives back on track. At home, daily life remains the same under their father’s brutal hand, leading them to take shifts to ensure that their mother isn’t left unprotected. A rift soon festers between the brothers, who are only 11 months apart in age. Book-smart Jay rebuilds his friendship with Nicole, keeps a cautious eye on Luca, and tries to hold himself together for his mom, all to the detriment of his homework. Meanwhile, Max remains dedicated to securing a spot at his dream art school and embarking on a secret relationship with classmate Melody, consciously trying to avoid Jay’s dragging him down or problems at home from stunting the rest of his life. In this striking, assured debut exhibiting a measured pace and delicate writing, Tison (Bribri) probes the ties of adolescent brotherhood and ways the effects of violence can stall self-directed growth. The author peels apart each brother’s bruised psyche by ingeniously rotating among Jay’s tense vignettes, Max’s wistful verses, and Bribri cultural elements to underscore their anguished journey to reconciliation.

Remarkably compelling.

(Fiction. 14-18)