The House of the Scorpion

House of the Scorpion

Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2002. 380pages

ISBN 978-0689852220 TR $19.99

As Matt grows up in the country of Opium he discovers the unpleasant realities of being a clone to a century-old drug lord.

Genre: Science Fiction

Ages 12 and up

Rating: 5 out of 5 for Quality. 5 out of 5 for Popularity.


Winner of the National Book Award, 2002

Printz Honor Book

Newbery Honor Book


As Matt grows up on the vast opium estates of El Patron, he slowly comes to realize the implications of being a clone to a 142 year old tyrannical drug lord. Raised in the home of El Patron’s family, Matt is always kept separate because of his clone status, yet he makes friends with a regular visitor to the house as well as building relationships with his mother figure, Celia and his bodyguard, Tam Lin. Slowly Matt comes to realize the truths of the enslaved “eejits” who mindlessly work the fields, and he chooses to try to escape the country of Opium only to find that tyranny exists everywhere.

This book had strong and unusual characters and a rich environment. The mysteries unfolded slowly and kept the reader on a bit of an edge wondering if Matt would figure them out in time. I like the complex issues of injustice and felt that the author did an excellent job of relating the problems of cloning and slavery to the potential problems with these technologies. This was a heavy book and in some ways felt more like an adult novel than a YA title, but the author pulled the reader along with an interesting plot and characters, so despite the horrific and frightening events, this is a good though-provoking work of science fiction.   I picked it up for its dystopian future, and because I loved the other books I read by this author also, my local children’s librarians were so excited about the sequel that just came out last year.


The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

Double Helix by Nancy Werlin

Book Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of bioethical issues that the book discusses?
  2. Do you agree or disagree that cloning is dangerous?

Booktalking points:

Clones! Opium! Drug Lords! Bodyguards! Escape!


Author Website

Publishers Weekly interview with Nancy Farmer

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