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The House of the Scorpion
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Set in the near future, when a narco-state called Opium separates the U.S. and what used to be Mexico, THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION follows Matteo Alacran as he grows up in the household of his \"benefactor,\" the drug kingpin known as El Patron. Nearly everyone hates Matteo because he is a clone, harvested from the DNA of El Patron, but there are a few individuals -- a bodyguard, a cook, the daughter of a U.S. senator -- who treat him kindly. Over time, Matteo begins to understand how El Patron runs his business and the terrible toll it takes on anyone who tries to escape into the U.S. With that understanding comes a realization of his true status within El Patron's severely dysfunctional family, and Matteo must decide how to escape the fate planned for him.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why cloning is such a popular theme in science fiction. What might be the consequences of cloning human beings? What kinds of rights should clones have?
What are some of the reasons that compel people to leave their countries of origin and live illegally elsewhere? What are immigrants expectations?
Should drugs like opium, marijuana, and cocaine be decriminalized? Would that lead to less drug abuse and violent crime?
- Author: Nancy Farmer
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Atheneum
- Publication date: November 2, 2001
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 11 - 17
- Number of pages: 380
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Newbery Medal and Honors
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.