The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Bibliographic information: The House of the Scorpion. Nancy Farmer. Athenium Books for Young Readers, 2002. $19.45. 380p. ISBN-13:  978-0689852220.
Summary:  In the future where clones are harvested for their organs, Matteo (Matt) Alacran is such a clone of the drug-lord Matteo Alacran, known as El Patron. He was raised in an isolated cabin far out in the opium fields by a chef, Celia, from the Alacran estate. One day when Matt, six years old now, is home alone he hears children outside, he has never seen other children before. Matt knows he is not supposed to show himself, but curiosity gets the better of him and he goes to the window. Unfortunately the kids see him and try to talk to him. This leads to them coming back the next day and doing the same. Matt ends up breaking the window and jumping out so that he can join them, but he ends up cutting his legs, hands, and feet quite badly on the glass. The kids rush him to the estate to get him a doctor, but when the adults discover who he is they throw him outside and later locked in a cell and treated like an animal for three months after that. When El Patron discovers the condition of his clone and is furious. Afterword, Matt is living like royalty, but still seen as an animal by others. The good life does not last long for Matt and soon his dreams are destroyed and his life is threatened.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: 12 and up
Review: This is a captivating novel that is sure to grab the attention of teen readers. Matt is a complex character with a personality that will you will have a hard time not liking. He starts out a bit naive, but compassionate, and turns into a strong-willed, intelligent boy. All of the other characters lend in creating a colorful cast for this novel. Farmer does a magnificent job of laying out the setting and creating a desolate feel to the story that you can only hope will get better. This book brings up a great topic of discussion on cloning and cloning rights. Matt is treated like an animal by everybody because he is a clone. Clones are only grown so that who ever they are the clone for can use them to harvest their organs or other body parts. Is it really okay to bring a being into the world for the full use of harvesting them? Do clones deserve the same rights as non-clones, or since they are a science specimen do they not get those rights? This is a tough one, and I think Farmer does a great job of voicing her own opinion on the matter. She also brings up the topic of harvesting opium that could generate a great discussion as well. A great read that comes highly recommended.
Readers’ annotation: Matt doesn’t know it yet, but he was cloned solely to have his organs harvested to help his donor live for another 50 years
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: There is a lot of abuse and violence happening to Matt in this story and children will be able to read this book and use it as a coping mechanism for fighting their own terrors in life.
Issues present: This book has cloning, opium harvesting, and what might be seen as child abuse. However, it does a standup job of describing human ethics and human nature that children will be able to understand and take note of what not to do with similar situations. Also, it could create a great discussion on the ethical values of cloning.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Matt’s character. –
P 43: “The days passed with agonizing slowness, followed by nights of misery.” to the end of the page. – Matt’s life in prison.
P 230: Matt’s struggle to escape his death.
Genre or subject: Science fiction: dystopian, clones
Readalikes:  The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, The Giver
Author’s website:
Awards: National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2002), Newbery Honor (2003), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature (2003), Buxtehuder Bulle (2003), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2005) Printz Honor (2003), South Carolina Book Award for Junior Book Award (2006), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2005), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Senior (2005), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2003), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2003), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2008)
Reviews:  Publisher’s Weekly:
Why I chose it: Somebody highly recommended it to me and after reading it thought it would be a great addition to my collection.


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Filed under Anger/Violence, Death, Dystopias, Toxic parents and teachers

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