Review: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Farmer - House of the ScorpionFarmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. New York: Atheneum Books, 2002. Print.

Mattéo Alacrán lives in Opium, a country that borders the United States to the south and Aztlán, formerly Mexico, to the north.  Mattéo is the highly protected clone of the powerful, one hundred and forty year old drug lord and ruler of Opium, El Patrón.  As a little boy, Mattéo loves El Patrón, even as everyone in Opium, including El Patrón’s family, cowers in fear of the old man.  The House of the Scorpion follows Matt on his journey to discover who he is and why he was created, as well as the terrifying methods that El Patrón uses to keep all the inhabitants of Opium under his tyrranical control.

Nancy Farmer (also, author of The Ear, The Eye and The Arm) exhibits, in this novel, a perfection of timing.  The House of the Scorpion is the perfect balance between beautifully detailed descriptions of character and setting and action.  Building suspense with each turn of the page, Farmer keeps this almost 400 page novel moving smoothly, without imposing artificial excitements or leaving loose ends.  Perhaps, more importantly from a teacher’s point of view, Farmer’s novel touches on a variety of weighty and provocative themes, including what it means to be human, the responsibilities of a society to the people who create it, the influence of nature vs. nurture on the personality of a human being, the ability of greed to corrupt and the opportunity to make good or bad decisions.  Matt’s movement from the world of Opium to that of Aztlán may also provide a great opportunity for comparing and contrasting the social structures of each society and each society’s treatment of its citizens.

I would not hesitate to include this book in teaching a utopia/dystopia unit.

I highly recommend this book, and will probably try to incorporate it into literature circles in my own classroom. I would recommend this book for middle and high school students, 6-12.

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15 Responses to Review: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

  1. William B. says:

    This book is one of my favorite books. I read it my Softmore year in high school. I defiantly believe a lot can be learned about what we can always appreciate no matter what.

  2. pat says:

    i thought this was an amazing book it talks about issuses in our world today but in a sub manner.

  3. saleh says:

    amazing book i loved it.

  4. Tisha says:

    I teach this novel with my 7th grade students as their end of the year novel. It’s fabulous! I have a whole unit developed if u would like a free copy send me an email and i will send the file your way!

  5. Tisha says:

    I thought the email address would show up on the message above tish22@hotmail.com. Let me know if you wish for me to forward the file ur way!

  6. Greg says:

    Im in 7th grade,and I read this for my book project. I definately thought nancy farmer was perfect, and this is by far the best book ive ever read.

  7. Pingback: Top Teen Titles # 70-74 « Practically Paradise

  8. Alex says:

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