Book Review: The House of the Scorpion

Written by Nancy Farmer

Review by Victor Lien, age 13

Matteo Alacrán never had a choice about how to live his life. The House of the Scorpion , a novel by Nancy Farmer, tells a futuristic story about a country located between the United States and Mexico. The country is named after its most popular crop -- Opium. Matt is a clone of El Patrón, the patriarch of the powerful, wealthy, and corrupt Alacrán family.
Matt was born into the hard life of a clone. Created in a petri dish and put inside the womb of a cow, Matt developed from embryo, to fetus, and eventually to baby. In this society, clones are despised and treated like animals. Matt struggles to understand why he was created, repeatedly asking the question: does being a clone really make you that different?
Matt lives alone in an isolated little house in a poppy field, where nothing ever happens. He has never left the house, and the only people he has ever interacted with are his caretaker, Celia, and a doctor. But one day, things change. When Matt finally sees other children approach the house, he is both terrified and excited. This first encounter leads him out of the house on a long journey to discover who he truly is.
Matt encounters a variety of challenges and hardships on the road to his fate. His story takes him to the wealthy Alacrán estate, a plankton factory with other Lost Boys, and finally to the country of Aztlán, previously known as Mexico. He encounters hateful characters like Tom, a young relative of El Patrón, but also makes friends and learns life lessons from his bodyguard Tam Lin. The images used to describe these events and characters are one of my favorite aspects of the book – these images make Matt’s journey come alive.
I highly recommend this book to middle school students who like reading books with colorful characters. I think this book is especially great for young readers. It introduces topics and ideas very interesting to young people like discrimination, corruption and growing up. I read this book along with other students in a Simpson Street Free Press book club, and we found the plot interesting to discuss.
The House of the Scorpion is a wonderful novel with excellent writing, storyline, and characters. Do not be intimidated by the length of the book, you will flip through all of the pages before you know it. This book is one of my favorites, and I am sure it will continue to be for a very long time.