Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

On the bottom of Matt’s foot a tattoo states: “Property of the Alacrán Estate.” He is a clone, an exact replica of a powerful drug lord, El Patrón, who rules Opium, a small country between the U.S. and what was once Mexico. While El Patrón dotes on Matt, the rest of the Alacrán family is openly hostile save for one girl, Maria. Everyone seems to know something Matt does not. Who can he trust when everyone seems to be hiding something?

The story is constantly changing direction. As Matt grows up, and his understanding of his situation becomes less fuzzy, his circumstances change – sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Farmer takes her time developing Matt’s character. The chapters are grouped into sections which divide Matt’s life into ages: 0-6, 7-11 and so on. I found Matt’s story gripping, especially the last half. I was reading while riding the bus and I didn’t notice the bus come to stop. I didn’t see everyone get off. Nor did I hear the driver twice tell me the bus was out of service and I needed to get off. (Yeah, I felt a little silly.) That’s how engrossing the story was.

It was exciting and bit scary watching Matt figure out answers to his questions and unearth the dark secrets of El Patrón. Each new chapter of his life required Matt to adapt in order to survive in Farmer’s world. It is an intriguing world with a bizarre political structure, a dangerous drug lord, a psycho family and a resilient protagonist. If you know a middle school or high school reader who enjoys thoughtful science fiction then make sure to recommend The House of the Scorpion.

Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2004     Pages: 380
Rating: 4 Stars     Source: Public Library


  1. I read this book shortly after it came out, and I remember feeling like you. Totally engrossed. I thought it was a great story -- and a great boy story! It still get's checked out all the time! If you haven't read this one, you should! Thanks for reminding me of a great reading experience.

  2. We have this book in both the YA and Children's sections at my library. It must circulate or I doubt we'd have so many copies!

  3. I loved this one and many of Farmer's other novels. She's one of my favorites.