Book Review #35: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

 Matteo Alacran was not born ; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patron, 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 from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster–except for El Patron. El Patron loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by sinister cast of characters, including El Patron’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 Alacran Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even expect.

This book reminded me (although I have not read it in full) a bit of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. It is similar in many ways, although this novel was vastly different.

My initial thought when I picked up this book was that it was Dystopian. I was definitely right about that. When you first open the book, you are taken a bit slightly off-guard at the table of contents, which revealed that you were going to be reading the entire childhood of this boy. Next is a list of characters, and an Alacaran family history. In my opinion, those additions to the book didn’t really seem necessary as I could easily follow what was going on, and who the characters were.

Honestly, I really liked this book. Matt is a character that you fall in love with; he is genuinely a good person, thrust into some awful situations. You are watching this boy grow up, and it is really entertaining. I’m not going to reveal too much of what happens in this book, to keep this review spoiler-free. I will say that the twists and turns this book had were very well done, you could hardly expect them coming. The setting and secondary characters in this novel are very well developed. Nothing seemed sort of “out there” as some dystopian books have done in the past. My only gripes with this novel are that some of the excitement and tenseness dropped off about two thirds into the tome, which wasn’t by much, however, it is still noticeable.

The idea of Matt as a clone, and how he was treated because of it made him into the character he is by the end of the novel. Clones were treated as less than human; as monsters. As Matt grappled with this concept, you could see his innermost confusion with the idea of what it means to be human and to have a soul.

The House of the Scorpion is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the literary struggle of the concept of humanity.

My Rating