Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion
Children's book review by Kimi McDiarmid
Ages 12 and up
Synopsis: This award winning book is the saga of a boy who is not really considered a boy, but, because he is a clone, is thought of as a monster. This amazing story of an otherwise normal child follows his life from his earliest memories through to his teen years. He grows up on a drug plantation run by his "father", El Patron, who is a powerful drug lord.
Review: This is the first book by Nancy Farmer that I have read. I actually read a bit of it at a student's house one day while waiting for her, and I was happy to find it in a store to finish it off. The House of the Scorpion has won several awards: National Book Award, Newberry Honor, and ALA honor.
The story itself starts out feeling very much like a regular coming of age story and quickly moves into drama as Matt discovers why he is different from others...
He was born in a strange, drug-lord run land where clones can be used as suppliers of transplant organs, and thus normally live short and unhappy lives. But he, unusually, is being raised as a son.
His world is full of power seeking people, and Matt must escape when a long unnoticed threat arrives. While everyone around him knows of his eventual fate and tries to find ways for him to escape, he himself is unaware until the last possible second. He escapes because his friends help him.
The House of the Scorpion is full of action, and Matt is forced to be brave and to escape from the new place he eventually finds himself. By the end of the book, he returns to the plantation a hero.
The novel has few flaws; the story and characters develop naturally. Matt feels very much like a regular person forced by circumstances to be a hero.
It is a bit strange, or perhaps the word is coincidental, the way things continually happen to the protagonist, but as you are reading it certainly feels natural. (Just a bit cruel - it does start to feel like he cannot catch a break).
Throughout the novel, Matt develops from a naive helpful boy into a brave yet cautious teen.
There are a few interesting ideas, like the eejits, who are mindless slaves, and the Safe Horses, which are, well, very safe. These horses will not do anything they are not told to do.
I would recommend The House of the Scorpion for teens who are starting to branch out in their reading - it is exciting and quite different.
Nancy Farmer has also written A Girl Called Disaster; The Warm Place; The Ear, The Eye and The Arm; and Do You Know Me? (View all Farmer's books.)
Other books that readers who like this style of book might enjoy are: The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis or perhaps Crispin: Cross of Lead, by Avi. These are also books about children/teens who are pulled out of their lives by extraordinary circumstances.
Read more of Kimi's reviews.
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