Mini Review: “Saints of the Household” by Ari Tison

Release Date: March 28, 2023
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
Genre: Young Adult


Saints of the Household is a haunting contemporary YA about an act of violence in a small-town–beautifully told by a debut Indigenous Costa Rican-American writer–that will take your breath away.

Max and Jay have always depended on one another for their survival. Growing up with a physically abusive father, the two Bribri American brothers have learned that the only way to protect themselves and their mother is to stick to a schedule and keep their heads down.

But when they hear a classmate in trouble in the woods, instinct takes over and they intervene, breaking up a fight and beating their high school’s star soccer player to a pulp. This act of violence threatens the brothers’ dreams for the future and their beliefs about who they are. As the true details of that fateful afternoon unfold over the course of the novel, Max and Jay grapple with the weight of their actions, their shifting relationship as brothers, and the realization that they may be more like their father than they thought. They’ll have to reach back to their Bribri roots to find their way forward.

Told in alternating points of view using vignettes and poems, debut author Ari Tison crafts an emotional, slow-burning drama about brotherhood, abuse, recovery, and doing the right thing.

My Thoughts

Saints of the Household is a stunning, powerful young adult contemporary novel about two siblings dealing with the repercussions of a terrible incident. As they process the events and what unfolds, they also each go through a journey of discovery about themselves, about each other, about the world. The brothers are Bribri, an Indigenous group from Central America, and other characters are Anishinaabe and Mexican American.

The narrative style is inventive and enticing. The chapters alternate between Max and Jay, with Max’s in the form of free verse poetry and Jay’s in very short chapters. Debut novelist Ari Tison peels back the layers of intergenerational trauma and colonial violence in a way that feels both visceral and true.

This novel will undoubtedly hit all the end of the year best of lists and awards, and rightfully so.

Available through (affiliate link)

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