A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The House of the Scorpion discusses cloning and raises important issues about immigration, bioethics, and drug policy. It encourages readers to think about what it means to be human and about the rights that should be afforded to everyone, no matter who they are or where they live.
The House of the Scorpion emphasizes the worth of every human being, no matter his or her education or economic circumstance. Genetics are not destiny. A person has the ability to make choices different from the mistakes of their immediate families.
Positive Role Models
Although treated terribly by almost everyone around him, Matteo maintains his essential human decency. He is a clone of an indisputably evil man, but he has the free will to be kind and compassionate, risking his own safety for the protection of his weaker friends.
Violence & Scariness
There is some violence in The House of the Scorpion, although most of it occurs "offstage." One child character tortures frogs and drugs a girl's dog. Matteo and his fellow orphans are beaten with a cane when they disobey their Keepers in Aztlan, and they eventually fight back. An incident of mass murder is described, but without too many disturbing details.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Matt has a crush on Maria, but their intense friendship does not have time to develop into a romance.
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The language in The House of the Scorpion is extremely mild, with few instances of anything stronger than "heck." Some characters use the made-up word "crot" or "crotting" as a kind of impolite intensifier.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In The House of the Scorpion, Matthew's benefactor, El Patron, raises, manufacturers, and distributes opium. At least one character in the household is addicted to laudanum, a medicinal form of the drug. Adults smoke and drink at various celebrations, but the younger characters do not partake.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Nancy Farmer's Newbery Honor Book The House of the Scorpion is a thoughtful science fiction coming-of-age story about the clone of a drug lord struggling to be free and establish his own identity. Set mostly in a drug-growing no-man's land between the United States and what once was Mexico, it raises interesting and important questions about immigration, bioethics, and drug policy. The story involves a character who raises, manufacturers, and distributes opium, and at least one character in that man's household is addicted to laudanum, a medicinal form of the drug. There are some violent episodes, but they are not bloody. A child tortures frogs and drugs a girl's dog. Orphans are beaten with a cane and eventually fight back. A mass murder is described without too many disturbing details. And use of any language stronger than "heck" is extremely rare.
Is It Any Good?
This is a gripping, gritty science fiction coming-of-age story that won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and was named both a Newbery and Printz Honor Book. Matteo's struggle to build an identity for himself beyond that of a detested clone is both harrowing and poignant. Narrated across the protagonist's childhood, the plot maintains a high level of suspense without straining credulity. Author Nancy Farmer creates a rich cast of well-rounded characters, where even the most despicable figures reveal their vulnerable, human sides.
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