Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jessi Reviews "The House of the Scorpion"

Title/Author: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer 
Publisher/Year: Atheneum Books, 2002
How I Got This: From my local library! 
Why I Read It: My good friend highly recommended it to me 
Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: At his coming-of-age party, Matteo Alacrán asks El Patrón's bodyguard, "How old am I? ... I know I don't have a birthday like humans, but I was born." 

"You were harvested," Tam Lin reminds him. "You were grown in that poor cow for nine months and then you were cut out of her." 

To most people around him, Matt is not a boy, but a beast. But for El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium--a strip of poppy field lying between the U.S. and what was once called Mexico--Matt is a guarantee of eternal life. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, for Matt is himself. They share identical DNA. 

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister, grasping cast of characters, including El Patrón's power-hungry family. He is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards and by the mindless slaves of Opium, brain-deadened 'eejits' who toil in the poppy fields. 

Escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn't even suspect. Around every turn in this vivid, futuristic adventure is a new, heart-stopping surprise.

After hearing good things about this book from a friend, I decided to give it a try. Now, I'm not much for science fiction, so I was surprised that I enjoyed this book so much. This book is more dystopian than science fiction, which is probably why I loved it. Farmer paints a feasible and slightly disconcerting picture of North America a ways down the road from now. This novel actually was difficult to read for me in a few places--not for language or anything, but because of the subject matter. Farmer presented an excellent moral question to her readers regarding the humanity of clones and their treatment. Granted, we haven't cloned humans yet, but the situation that Farmer creates is not so farfetched that it is unbelievable.

On the contrary, it is not difficult to imagine humans down the road wanting to clone for organ harvest. But clones aren't just clones--they're humans too, which raises the interesting moral questions that Farmer touched upon. Matt's treatment at times was heartwrenching to read, but to me that just proved that Farmer knows how to write. This novel had a bit of a slow start for me, if only because the beginning was difficult to read. After that, the novel was an absolute page-turner for me. The only thing that bothered about the novel was the whole Lost Boys plot towards the end. I don't know if it was just me, but it seemed very jarring. It all arose out of seemingly nowhere, and it seemed as though Farmer just threw it in there for the hell of it. Not that it was particularly bad, but it just didn't seem to go with the way the rest of the novel had been going. Overall, though, this novel was the best YA novel I've read in a long time--since A Northern Light actually. I'd highly recommend to fans of YA or fans of dystopic novels.


  1. This is the first science-fiction/dystopian YA book that I ever read and it pulled me into the genre very happily. I recommend this book to students in my library all the time and they always come back for more

  2. Yes. Thanks for the reminder. I remember reading this a few years back and really loving it. Our Biology I classes read it for a classroom novel, and the kids really like it.

  3. Ooh this sounds so interesting!! I am definitely going to be adding this to my wishlist. I find the issue of cloning so intriguing.

  4. Thanks for the review! I checked in out from the library to see if it's suitable for a read-a-like list I'm making. I will have to give it a read!

  5. Great review! You have convinced me to put my toes in the dystopian waters :)

  6. I felt that this book had a slow start, and like you, was a bit disappointed with the ending, but the bulk of the book was great. I felt so bad for Matt and Farmer does a good job of asking the question "What is human?".

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  9. this has been in my tbr forever and a day! i had a teen recommend it to me ages ago as something they really loved. one day!

    thanks for the review and the reminder that his awesome book is just WAITING for me to pick it up.

  10. Interesting review, one that I haven't heard about but I wouldn't mind reading.

  11. I love this book! I got it by mistake once from a children's book of the month club and forgot to send it back. I'm so glad, because I discovered a new author that I love. I have read a few by her and loved them all.


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