Review: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion

This book is a children’s book? Really??? The House of the Scorpion has a super-creative world and plotline, and it’s nothing like I’ve ever read before. This dystopian novel features many concepts I don’t see much (or at least not well done), including drugs, slavery, cloning/immortality, and immigration. Farmer was able to integrate all of these concepts to produce an engrossing vivid, mildly disturbing, and action-packed story.


Matteo Alacrán is a clone of El Patrón, the all-powerful drug lord of Opium, a country that lies between United States and Aztlán. He struggles to understand the purpose of his existence, as well as the world that El Patrón has created.


The story starts with Matteo and follows him through his childhood years, and not too far into the book, I’ve already developed sympathetic feelings for him because of what he has to go through as a clone. He is discriminated against so much by everyone around him because of something he can’t control, so right away I was able to connect with him because he’s an underdog, so even though I haven’t learned much about his character at that point, I’m on Matteo’s side. What’s interesting about most of Farmer’s characters is that they’re not inherently good or bad – I don’t come away thinking, “So-and-so is just so nice” or “so-and-so is evil!” My opinions of all the characters change as I see how they behave with each event, and I think it’s a good portrayal of the personalities that make up this dystopian world.

Matteo makes friends and enemies throughout the book, and he (and the plot) is driven by some important events in the story. Every climactic event surprised me and kept me wondering about what would happen next, since it felt like an “ending” was so far away. There’s a dark, gritty, and graphic feel to the story as a whole that intrigued me and kept me reading, but kind of repulsed me at the same time due to the lack of morals in Matteo’s world. I wonder how younger readers would feel about some of these scenes, since I think I’d be so traumatized if I read them when I was younger! (I obviously stuck to the happily-ever-after fairy tales when I was younger, haha.) And I was content with how the story ended – it’s not a fully closed loop, but at least it wasn’t a cliffhanger!


One of my friends told me that The House of the Scorpion is her favorite book, and I can definitely see why; it’s a book with a fascinating premise and a powerful plot. It has a lot of important themes and concepts, which is why it’s a book that shows up often in the classroom. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!


10 thoughts on “Review: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

  1. A children’s book about a drug lord??

    Things are definitely more interesting when characters are morally grey. Then you don’t know who you should root for, and you can’t tell if the ‘good guys’ are going to win. 😉

    • Haha, definitely! Although there are always those morally grey characters who you grow attach to and root for no matter what, even if they start going down the wrong path… (I think more recently, Vicious made me feel that way!)

  2. Like Genome, this is a book I read in high school and really remember liking. I didn’t know it was the start of a series though! Sounds like a good reason to go back and pick it up again 🙂

    • Ahhh again, I feel like I missed out on so many classic/good books in high school! I feel like the first books of all the series (like The Giver) are always the ones being promoted, and the sequels get ignored, so I definitely want to try to continue this series when I’m in the mood!

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