A Review: Scurrying Scorpions

Title:  The House of the Scorpion
Author:  Nancy Farmer
Release Date:  2002

Publisher:  Scholastic Inc.
Genre:  Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Science Fiction
Length:  380 pages

Status: Series

Sum It Up (from Amazon)

Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested.

His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium–a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster—except for El Patrón. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patrón’s power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even suspect.

Let’s Review, Shall We?

Hey, everyone! Hope life is going awesome! As I am writing this, I am keeping a keen eye on the clock, because I am about to go to my nephew’s FIFTH birthday party! What?! How has it been five years already? Yikes! I just hastily finished wrapping two water pistols and a box full of water balloons in the shape of grenades and bombs. I have to admit, I struggle in buying presents for my two nephews, and I have not had the best record. (Especially the Christmas that I bought a drone for my oldest nephew that ended up breaking as soon as we tried to fly it.) But, this time, I hope I have a hit! Anyway, you are here to talk about books!

So, I recently re-read The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. This is one of those novels that I bought at a Scholastic Book Fair way back in high school. Do you remember those? Every time it was in my school I was so excited, searching through the magazine and circling all the titles that I thought looked interesting. (Consequently, it was always the majority of them.) Then, the glorious day would arrive! The fair! I would promptly spend all of my babysitting, Christmas, birthday, and tractor driving money on stacks of books. Often, I bought so many that I did not get around to reading them all. But, this is one that I did get to read and really enjoy.

When I was home for the holidays a while back, I rediscovered this book tucked away in my old room, and I was filled with nostalgia. Finding that I could not fully remember it all, I brought it back home to Edmond with me. I remembered enjoying it when I was younger, but as I went back and reread this novel, I felt like I was able to appreciate it more this time around due either to the fact that I am older/more knowledgeable or that I was just realizing more since it was a technical re-read. Who knows? Either way, I like the book.

The premise of the novel is interesting, giving the reader pause and questioning hypothetical ethics. The story is set in Aztlán, a futuristic setting of part of Mexico and part of the U.S. which is now ruled and monitored by world-powerful drug lords, the leader of which is Matteo Alacrán, the old scorpion himself, otherwise known as El Patrón. However, the story is centered around Matt, the old scorpion’s clone, who does not realize that he is a clone or what a clone even is until far later in the book.

You cannot help but feel for Matt, watching as he grows up. Granted, he tends to express some negative traits which relate back to El Patrón, and Matt must choose what kind of person he wants to be. However, he is raised in isolation from the other Alacráns who despise him, viewing him as a foul creature far beneath them from their pedestals of self-importance. Despite all of his maltreatment from his “family,” Matt does have a mother figure in Celia, the Alacráns’ head cook, and a father figure in Tam Lin, his and El Patrón’s personal bodyguard. He even finds a friend in a corrupt U.S. politician’s daughter, María.

El Patrón treats Matt especially well, showing him favoritism, celebrating his birthdays, and spoiling him extravagantly. Because of this “affection” Matt grows to love the ancient man despite all of the whispered rumors of cruelty and danger. Matt denies the implications of his benefactor’s true character, as he is eager for love. It is not until later that Matt realizes that El Patrón had alternative intentions the entire time, causing Matt to flee in an attempt to find his one and only friend María and her estranged mother, Esperanza. It is only she who can help him find freedom to fight against the corruption in Aztlán and send the nest full of scorpions scurrying from the light.

Matt goes on adventures he had never dreamed of through a shocking dystopian world where corruption and greed at the hands of drug lords and politicians have tainted the world as we know it. Farmer delivers a unique and horrifying futuristic world in which hypothetical ethics are cause for thought.

Corruption and cruelty run in Matt’s veins. This leads one to question their ability to overcome DNA. Because of all of this, I was thoroughly intrigued by this captivating tale.

Overall:  4 out of 5 stars


You can purchase The House of the Scorpion through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any other major bookseller.

Other reviews:

  • Tatiana posted a thoughtful and honest review on Goodreads.
  • Reynje spends time analyzing the themes and writing style on Goodreads.

(While searching other reviews, I see a majority that really liked the book. Others seemed to really dislike it. What about you? What were your thoughts? I would love to hear!)




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