The House of the Scorpion

by Nancy Farmer

Paperback, 2004





Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 400 pages


In a future where humans despise clones, Matt enjoys special status as the young clone of El Patrón, the 142-year-old leader of a corrupt drug empire nestled between Mexico and the United States.


Original publication date


Physical description

400 p.; 5.5 inches


0689852231 / 9780689852237

User reviews

LibraryThing member robertson18
An exciting look into the future, where clones are considered animals. But one young clone, Matt, is the clone of the drug lord who rules the land that lies between the United States and Mexico. The reader becomes incredibly compassionate for Matt, who struggles to find his place in a world where most people hate him, but the man with the most power loves him - or does he?… (more)
LibraryThing member librarymeg
This challenging teen novel is not for the faint of heart. It will push you and force you to examine your opinions on topics such as cloning, drugs, power, government, and human rights. Many of the scenes may make you uncomfortable, but that is the great beauty of this book. It doesn't talk down to anyone, but it also avoids getting preachy. The issues the author puts forth are displayed in all their glorious shades of grey, and no one will feel forced to agree or disagree with her. The main character, Matt, is much like the man he is cloned from (perhaps not surprisingly.) He makes some bad decisions and occasionally disappoints the reader, but through sheer force of personality we can't help liking him and hoping he makes it through the challenges he faces. Without Matt, this book would show us a world of ignorance and cruelty with little to no hope for change. One little character changes everything in his world, and we as readers root for him and hope his changes work for the better. Maybe that's why I liked this book so much. It shows so clearly how our choices, however small or powerless we are, can change the world.… (more)
LibraryThing member PhoebeReading
In The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer slowly weaves the tale of Matt, a clone of the drug lord Matteo Alacron. Alternately pampered and tortured throughout his childhood (he slightly unbelievably goes from being kept in a pen of chicken litter to being given private piano lessons and tutoring in a few years' time), Matt grows up with a strong moral compass thanks only to his caretakers. Farmer does a good job of developing this bildungsroman--by the novel's end, Matt is a fairly complex character. Likewise, she builds her futuristic universe slowly: in the first several chapters, it largely resembles our own, but by the novel's conclusion we come to realize that this is a very different world, both in terms of technology and politics.But something intangible was lacking here. There's something perfunctory about Farmer's prose, and the characters who surround Matt feel flat. And, while the actual plot of the book is fairly interesting, Matt's movement from episode to episode feels disjointed, as if Farmer was keeping her characters at arms' length. Nevertheless, she raises some interesting questions here, not only about cloning but also about power and our genetic destinies.… (more)
LibraryThing member JasmineW
This book is about Matt who is a clone in House of Scorpion. El Patron, a powerful drug lord, is the original Matteo Alacran. Patron is the master mind beind the whole thing. He uses Matt's clone from cells of a cow. In Opium, El Patron catches the "illegal immigrants" that try to cross the border. If they get caught, they will become enslaved. They refer to people as eejits, who suppose to have a computer chip in their brains. What will happen to Matt? Will El Patron get caught? Read on and see.

One thing we can do is fill out a K-W-L chart on cloning. Since most students wouldn't be too familiar with cloning, we can start with this activity to activate some background knowledge (if any). A K-W-L chart is a graphic organizer that stands for what we know, what we want to know, and what we learned. So, with the topic being cloning, I would let my students fill out what they know first and then what they want to now. Next, we will learn about cloning and what it is and then go back to our K-W-L charts to write what they had learned. The next idea I had was for my students to take a picture of themselves (a photo) and bring it to class. With their picture, the student is going to play the role of El Patron. On paper, the student will look at their picture and draw how their clone would look, if they were creating one like Patron did.

I didn't enjoy the book. I'm not too familiar with cloning and it would't be a topic of choice that I would want to read about anyway. I'm not sure if I would share the book with middle schoolers. I give it 2 stars. I did make the connection of House of Scorpion (cloning) to the Movie Splice, which I enjoyed watching. Finally, others may have liked it, but I really didn't. It didn't interest me nor keep me motivated to keep reading more.
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LibraryThing member namia.stevenson
The House of the Scorpion is by Nancy Farmer, it won three awards. This book is about a boy named Matt who was breed a clone of Matteo Alacran(a very rich and powerful man encharge of the Alacran Estate).
LibraryThing member AnnieGoodwin
The House of Scorpion by Nancy Farmer is a speculative fiction novel about cloning. In this story, the reader is introduced to a clone named Matt. Matt was made from the DNA of El Patron, a lord of a small country near the Mexican border. Matt was placed in a petri dish, then in the womb of a cow. Normally, at birth clones have needles injected into their brains causing them to go brain dead. However, Matt was more fortunate than any other clone strictly because he was El Patron's clone. El Patron wanted Matt to live a healthy life, so that he could be available if he needed Matt's organs. Matt was raised in a small house by a housemaid, Celia. Most clones are thought of a monstrous creatures and live in cells or worse; again, Matt was more fortunate than most clones. Matt has lived confined to Celia's house until he meets the children from the house who find him. After his discovery, Matt is taken to the house were he lives in animal-like conditions. The book then follows Matt's journey as he meets El Patron, makes friends, finds love, escapes to freedom, and more.

Due to the subject matter of this text in our very politically correct society, I do not know that it could be used in a classroom setting. However, there are many different themes, ideas, and connections that can be used in the classroom. This text would have a great opportunity to be used for vocabulary and word study. Words in the text such as "treacherous, corrupt, malevolent" and other words provide a learning opportunity for students to discover word meaning through context. My major concern with this text is that parents and administrators would have a hard time supporting this text because it is about cloning. Cloning, stem cell research, and similar issues are a sensitive issues religiously and politically. I feel the same controversy would apply with the topic of the eejits, who have computer chips placed in their brains and perform required tasks, like robots. I also feel that although according to Scholastic this book is at a sixth grade reading level, I would use it in a high school English classroom due to content.

I had a very hard time getting interested in this text. The first section of the book, which followed Matt from birth through six years of age, were full of information. I found the information overwhelming and it made it hard to put all the pieces of the story together. Because I had a hard time getting into the book in the beginning, I did not ever get really attached to the story. Although i enjoyed the book more as Matt got older and watching his relationships form with Maria, Celia, Tam Lin, El Patron, and other characters. However, I did find it erie that El Patron was so affectionate and interested in Matt because he saw Matt as himself.
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LibraryThing member Maggie_Rum
This book truly deserved its Newberry Honor Medal! I find that there are many post-apocalyptic/futuristic novels that often just miss the mark. The House of the Scorpion, however, hits it spot on. The story follows Matt, who is the honored outcast in his own home. As he discovers the truth of his existence, his life shatters before him and he strives to find out who he really is.… (more)
LibraryThing member sturlington
Note: This review contains mild spoilers.

The House of the Scorpion is a novel intended for young adults, but it is only distinguishable as that by the youth of its main characters and the sometimes simplistic straightforwardness of the writing. The themes it addresses — the outsider, the moral obligations of those in power, the determination of nature vs. nurture — are much more complex and will appeal to readers of any age.

The House of the Scorpion is set 140 years in the future, in a dystopian country called Opium or Dreamland, located between the U.S. and Mexican (now Aztlan) borders. Opium was founded by a drug lord named El Patrón in a deal with its bordering countries to eliminate illegal immigration and funnel the drug trade to Asia, Europe and Africa. El Patrón rules Opium absolutely, modeling it on a fantasy version of his childhood Mexico. His Farm Patrol captures illegals and lobotomizes them, turning them into slaves called “eejits” or “zombies” to work the opium fields. El Patrón keeps himself alive by harvesting organs and tissue as needed from clones of himself, whose brains are also destroyed.

Except, in his hubris, El Patrón decides to keep the brain of of one his clones, a boy named Matt, intact. The novel is divided into sections based on Matt’s age and important periods in his life, from youth to middle age to old age. Never intended to have a long life, Matt’s “death” — and most critical turning point — comes at age 14, when he discovers that his true purpose is not to take over the family business from El Patrón, but to supply his next heart. The House of the Scorpion is Matt’s coming-of-age story, and at this point when Matt escapes to Aztlan, he begins the final process of becoming himself: no longer a despised, inferior clone, an outsider, but a true leader.

Sharing El Patrón’s genetics, Matt also shares many of his characteristics: pride, innate leadership, the drive to do what is necessary to achieve his goals. For most of his youth, although he is largely ostracized, Matt is not completely alone. Three people highly influence him: Celia, the woman who raises him and loves him unconditionally; Tam Lin, his bodyguard, who teaches him about the world and who believes in him; and Maria, his childhood friend who shows Matt that he is capable of being loved, despite being a clone. These are influences that El Patrón lacked. So when Matt comes into his own as a leader, he has the potential to do what El Patrón never could: to correct the egregious moral sins of his culture.

The House of the Scorpion won many honors, including the Newbery Award and the National Book Award for young adult literature.
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LibraryThing member BridgetteHarmon
This thought-provoking futuristic tale examines the ramifications of many of the moral issues we face today: embryonic stem cell research, cloning, extending life through questionable medical practices, the power of faith, the prevalence of drugs, and what it means to be human.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is Matt’s struggle with the fact that everyone tells him he has no soul because he is a clone. Yet he thinks independently, he loves, he chooses between good and evil, he strives to improve his mind, he sacrifices his own good for the good of others, he connects with music on a level beyond mere proficiency, and he is intrinsically unique from the original Matteo Alacran. He even shares Cecilia’s faith on some level, although he thinks it doesn’t really apply to him since he doesn’t have a soul.

Another interesting moral dilemma in the book is how far medicine should go to preserve life. El Viejo, El Patron’s grandson, is mocked for allowing himself to die of old age rather than creating a clone and extending his life by harvesting the clone’s cells and organs. El Viejo says that he only wants to live the life that God has given him. Others, hungry for power, create and kill many clones in order to increase the quality and longevity of their lives. They use everything from embryos to full-grown adults to preserve their earthly bodies.

I also thought it was significant that Catholicism is still very much alive in Mexican culture, even though the country is now nearly as technologically advanced as the United States. This novel does not assume that faith will disappear as humanity progresses; rather, faith remains a foundation for the preservation of morality, love, kindness, and individual free will in the human race.

I would highly recommend this book, although I think some of the issues and scenarios are too mature for younger children. It is very well-written and engaging as it explores issues that many people would rather not think about. Through this novel, youth are encouraged that they can make a difference in the world and stand firm against evil and corruption.
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LibraryThing member jrissman
"The House of the Scorpion" is a top-notch book. Although labeled "juvenile fiction," it is perfectly suitable for adults and older children. The book is set in the future in an opium-growing border state between the U.S. and Aztlan (Mexico). The book chronicles the struggles of Matt, clone of the infamous El Patron, the 140-year-old dictator of the opium empire. Farmer builds not one, but two interesting cultures which are at once surprising and alien, and yet plausible outgrowths of the facts of the setting and the reality of human nature. Matt himself is a very deep and complex character who changes tremendously throughout the book (while he progresses from around 6 to over 14 years of age). Farmer clearly has an intuitive grasp of child psychology and is adept at making a hero who is recognizable as a child, yet who embodies meritorious qualities beyond his years. Matt is able to understand and empathize with the needs of others, and though he makes mistakes and suffers prejudice, he nevertheless manages to acquire valuable friends. He is an easy hero to admire.

The setting is overwhelmingly dystopian, but it has that strange, elusive quality which makes the reader wonder if he/she might enjoy a visit, or if perhaps living there would at least be more interesting than living in the real world. The story reflects on illegal immigration and drugs, issues which are relevant today, although I do not see any allegory to particular events, people, or political positions.

Overall, Farmer has made an exciting, interesting, and unique story of overcoming adversity and growing up in a hostile environment. It's fast-moving and hard to put down, yet it is thoughtful and inspiring. Give it a try.
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LibraryThing member eduscapes
This Newbery Honor Book is a wonderful science fiction book for children and adults. It does a great job blending current issues with future environments. I've enjoyed many of her other award-winning books including A Girl Named Disaster and The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm.
LibraryThing member Jess853
Mat is treated differently because he's a clone. Then he finds out that clones are made for their organs. He runs away, but finnally comes back to change this blood streaked land.
LibraryThing member ergoface
One of the better YA Science Fiction novels I've read in years. Does an excellent job of getting both characters and the science fictional aspects of the story right. My only need to suspend belief came over the unlikely societal setting, it is possible, but not too plausible. Other than that, everything rang very true. Strongly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member chocolatechip
this is an odd book about cloning and clones in general, it won tons of awards, but i really didn't enjoy it that much
LibraryThing member mayaspector
This is our 2007 middle school book discussion title for 7th grade.
LibraryThing member colinflipper
This was an entertaining book. It's got some apocalyptic sci-fi, but keeps it hidden behind a pastoral setting for the first two-thirds or so. I also enjoyed the southwestern/Mexican tinge of the setting and language.

Still, I was a bit disappointed by the simplicity of how the book addresses the key moral issues (cloning, slavery). Farmer tries to convince us that the main character has affection towards his "father", the ancient and amoral drug lord, but it doesn't really ring true. Maybe this is to be expected in a book written for a younger audience, but I was hoping for more.… (more)
LibraryThing member Omrythea
Is cloning something that will be available to us for a price in the future? Let’s look at what your money will buy you today.
$295.00 + $100.00 annual storage fee—You can bank your pet’s genes and have a genetic lab maintain them in case you should want them at a later date.
$1700.00 + $150.00 shipping + $125.00 annual storage fee—You can bank your new baby’s cord blood so that the stem cells can possibly be used in the future for your family’s health needs.
$32,000.00—This is the cost to clone your cat at Genetic Savings and Clone Inc. So far about 6 people have had this done. The cost has been reduced from 50 thousand to 32. The company is working extensively to be able to offer this service for dogs, which would have a considerably higher demand.
??????—cost to clone yourself or someone you love
House of the Scorpion really makes you think... Here is a plot teaser for you:
Six year old Matt has no parents but lives with a friendly woman named Celia in a small house surrounded by opium fields. He does not know why, but he is never allowed out of the house and is locked in when Celia goes to work each day. One day he sees some kids playing and in a desperate attempt to make contact with other people his age, he smashes a window and jumps out, landing in a pile of glass. The other kids are worried about him and take him to “the big house” to get his injuries treated. Everyone in the fabulous house reacts, trying to help him, until someone notices the tattoo on his ankle that says “Property of the Alacran estate.” Suddenly a big man gets very angry at the kids saying “You need a vet for this little beast!... How dare you defile this house?” and throws him roughly outside.
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LibraryThing member supermanlver
Before i read the house of the scorpion, i thought that is was going to be a little too much about science, but as i read it, i found out that it has tons of romance, humor, and suspense. This is the type of book that draws you in.
LibraryThing member orbitgal
Great read for tweens and teens. A little mature for most kids under 11 years of age. Adult subject matter such as drug abuse and usage.
LibraryThing member avile
The book grabs you and won’t let go. I think Nancy Farmer‘s excellent description and words makes you feel like your there in the hot Mexican desert watching Matt’s struggle to survive, escape over the Opium Border into Mexico to find his only friend while trying to fight off the icy breath of death.
LibraryThing member bibliophile26
One of the best YA books I have read. A clone of a Mexican druglord and designed to be an organ farm to prolong the original’s life, Matt struggles for survival in this fast-paced, thrilling read.
LibraryThing member laundrylady
Matt, a clone of El Patrón, a powerful drug lord in Opium, knows he is different. He is spared the fate of other clones and zombies who have their intellect destroyed and are implanted with a chip. He escapes the land of Opium and after being held by the Keepers, finally makes his way home and begins to rid the country of the evil he witnessed.… (more)
LibraryThing member DaniSkye
Reading this in middle school lead to my interest in the doomsday futuristic novels I read now; Brave New World, 1984, etc. Elegantly written and fascinating in every way, I think every thinking middle schooler (and adults too!) should read this.
LibraryThing member luckmimi
I loved this book to the 5th power! It gives a look into a future thats seems so realistic tat you'll want to keep reading. Its science fiction mixed with a young boy fighting himself for his life. Just when you think the book can't get any better it smacks you in your face with a beautiful love story. The ending keeps you wanting more. And I pray that there will be a part two....… (more)
LibraryThing member sara_k
The House of the Scorpion is set in a future where drug barons have their own country between Mexico and the United States. The House of the Scorpion follows Matt, the young clone of a drug lord, through his life. Clones are seen by society as less than human and have no rights but Matt's "father" sees Matt as himself and has Matt live with his family where Matt is treated as the heir. What is Matt's purpose and will he ever have a life off the the plantation? The homestead is a vast and beautiful place with crops tended by humans who are treated like animals...they are not clones so who are they?

Matt has some allies in the household: his nanny/mother who is the family cook, one of his "father's" bodygaurds, and his young cousin whom he loves.

What does it mean to be a human being and what does it mean to be a genetically engineered or cloned person?

What can a few people do against great evil? And how did that evil get so great in the first place?

I recommended this book to a 12 year old girl who had read Nancy Farmer's book The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm. This is not a book to be read in a vacuum; discussion about drug enforcement and cloning and genetic engineering as it applies to human beings and their rights should be part of the experience. I would recommend this book to a Jr. High teacher, a high school librarian, and a college teacher who teaches a Modern Ethics class.

Another book that addresses some of the same questions but from a different perspective is Star Split by Kathryn Lasky. Star Split brings up different thoughts and arguments about cloning and genetic enhancement and what they could mean to the future of human beings.
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(1246 ratings; 4.1)
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