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The House of the Scorpion (Matteo Alacran #1)

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4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  58,945 Ratings  ·  4,781 Reviews
Matteo Alacran was not born; he was harvested with the DNA from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium. Can a boy who was bred to guarantee another’s survival find his own purpose in life? And can he ever be free?
Paperback, 380 pages
Published May 2004 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (first published 2002)
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Best Young Adult Books
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Best Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Emily May

This book has been on my goodreads shelf since pretty much the beginning of time... so why on earth have I been wasting my time with every other poorly-constructed dystopian world instead of reading this? I have absolutely no excuse: I own a copy, it's won practically every award going, and all my reviewer friends have been constantly singing its praises. Perhaps I am way more influenced by title and cover than I like to admit - though there's nothing actually wrong with either, I still feel li
...more
Linda (Librarian)
This is one of the almost perfect books written for young adults. It is an exciting story that will keep you turning the pages, but it also makes you think about the world we live in. It is a Newbery and Printz honor book and winner of the National Book Award.

In the House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer tells the story of Matt, the clone of 142-year-old El Patron, dictator of Opium, a country between the United States and Aztlan. In Opium, clones have one purpose, to extend the lives of those whos
...more
Jack
Oct 06, 2008 Jack rated it liked it
Shelves: teen
A really hit and miss book, with some terrific ideas and terrible plotting.

The main character, Matt, is a clone of the world's biggest drug kingpin, the 140+ year-old El Patron. Matt lives in El Patron's sprawling estate and is hated by most of the residents there, aside from his care-taker Celia and El Patron himself, who is raising Matt for his own sinister reasons. Soon, these reasons are revealed and Matt's only hope is to escape.

This felt like it should have been at least twice as long. The
...more
Maxwell
Aug 21, 2015 Maxwell rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, ya, 2015
The House of the Scorpion is really unlike any YA/middle grade book I've ever read. It's extremely philosophical and thought-provoking, covering topics of the soul, identity, and human rights in a very intriguing way.

It takes place in some distant future where there is a land between the U.S. and Mexico that grows poppies for opium. The main character Matt is a clone of the leader of the nation named El Patron. El Patron seems kind and generous, giving his clone an education and privileges that
...more
Tatiana
May 24, 2012 Tatiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: Flannery
As seen on The Readventurer

Flannery made me do it and I am pleased that she did. I have no idea why I've been avoiding The House of the Scorpion for so long. Just look at its accolades - National Book Award Winner, Printz Honoree, Newbery Honoree. It practically has my name written on it.

But, is The House of the Scorpion worth such an overwhelming acclaim though?

I'd say, its first 215 pages and the last 20 are (ebook edition).

The first two thirds of the book are riveting. This story is not just
...more
Kylee
Apr 07, 2009 Kylee rated it it was ok
DUMBEST BOOK EVER!
Esther
Oct 01, 2008 Esther rated it liked it
Recommended to Esther by: my kid
Recommended to me by my teenaged son, the book had a promising start and an interesting middle, but it all kind of fell apart towards the end and finished with a very unsatisfying ending. I liked the ideas presented about prejudice and predetermination vs. self-determination, and about the relative values of evil. The book is chock-full of evil-doers, some of whom are despicable, some of whom are loved, and one, the most interesting character of them all, Tam Lin, who is a compelling mixture of ...more
Flannery
This book is great because:
1. It is a young adult book about, I kid you not, every social policy and -ism you can think of--drugs, slavery, cloning, classism, socialism, EVERYTHING
2. I read all 400 or something pages in a day
3. The story is really unique and I wasn't really sure what was going to happen

Anyways, it is basically the story of the clone of the biggest drug lord in a country solely made up of drug farms.

A few people on the book's goodreads page mentioned that the writing was not ama
...more
Wicked Incognito Now
May 13, 2010 Wicked Incognito Now rated it did not like it
I HATED IT, and hated it on so many levels I truly do not know where to begin.

First of all, I will acknowledge one aspect of the story that I found positive. This is the story of Matt, a clone. Matt is raised in a shack on the opium plantation of drug lord, El Patron. He is El Patron's clone, grown for the purpose of being spare body parts for El Patron. In this world (the near future), clones are considered property, livestock. The embroyos are implanted in cows, so the people of this world hav
...more
Neal Shusterman
Mar 20, 2011 Neal Shusterman rated it it was amazing
One of the best young adult novels I've ever read.
Reynje
But underneath Matt felt a hollowness. He understood he was only a photograph of a human, and that meat he wasn’t really important. Photographs could lie forgotten in drawers for years. They could be thrown away.
You know that moment just before you’ve entirely woken up, when you’re dreaming, but you’re conscious that you’re dreaming, so you’re hovering somewhere between sleep and wakefulness? (view spoiler) That’s the closest I can get to describing the exp
...more
Jason Kurtz
Yeah, yeah, yeah. See the RACK of medals of the cover of this book? A friend told me she felt this novel changed the face of science-fiction. High praise indeed. I didn't buy the hype, and still have issues with the extremely slow start of this novel. It has been sitting on my desk for almost two years (no lie) and I finally read it.

After the first 80 pages of slow moving material, I finally became vested in the characters and thought the novel finally caught on. I think this novel probably doe
...more
Zoë
Jan 20, 2009 Zoë rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Zoë by: my brother
The house of the Scorpion is a book about a clone named Matteo Alacran. He was cloned from El Patron and harvested from a cow. His mother like figure is a woman named Celia. When Matteo, "Matt" lives with Celia he doesn't understand that he is different from everyone else. When he is brought from his little house in the poppy field to "The Big House," his life changes for the better and worse. He meets a girl he likes, named Maria, who also likes him, but he is treated like dirt from all of the ...more
booklady
First read this in 2004 when my daughters were in middle school. It’s an excellent young adult novel about a young man, Matt, who discovers he is ‘clone’ in a futuristic society somewhere between America and Mexico. How Matt—cloned to be the spare ‘parts’ for a wealthy elderly man—grows into adolescence and discovers the truth of his identity, learns who his friends and foes are, the rules of the system in which he lives and how to survive is an incredible story. It really helps you look at huma ...more
Sparrow
I do not love being in the desert, but I think I do love reading about other people being in the desert. Is that schadenfreude? I guess I kind of like reading anyone who really has the feel of a setting, and I think Nancy Farmer has that here. This was desolate and full of desert flowers, and just enough mystery and elusive environmental contamination to set the scene for a lovely dystopian world. This was a wonderful, scary, heartwarming, chilling, inspiring story.

While I was reading this, I ke
...more
Rose
Initial reaction: I'm pretty much at a loss for words at this point in time because I didn't expect this story to grip me as much as it did. Following Matt's journey in the course of this book was one full of many ups and downs, tragedies as well as triumphs, and I honestly haven't come across many MG/YA dystopian novels that were as well done as this.

Full review:

Nancy Farmer's "The House of the Scorpion" was a story that took years for me to pick up since its original publication date. Seriousl
...more
Lyndsey
I started this one a while back and took a long break before coming back to finish it. I had forgotten how intensely and wonderfully creative this book was. I had forgotten the beauty of the language used in it. The mysteries of Matt's relationship with El Patron. The nickname he is called, mi vida - my life - which has so much more meaning than even he realizes.

The subplots of this book are extensive and diverse. Scientific experiments, drug dealing, juvenile espionage, child imprisonment, and
...more
Lisbeth Avery {Domus Libri}
The House of the Scorpion was just wow. Wow. If this is the norm of the books I’m going to read 2012, than I’m in luck (and just wow will be part of my vocab). It is a brilliant work of art. I had not ever read a Nancy Farmer book (though twice now I rented The Sea of Trolls – but never got to it). I was very happy with this book, begging everyone I know to read it. They didn’t – yet.

The “main villain” (I don’t really call any of them the main villain because without even one childhood it would
...more
AH
That was amazing.

Why hadn’t I heard of this award winning book?

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer absolutely captivated me. I read it in about a day and could not put it down. Essentially it’s a middle school to young adult book but the beauty of it is that it can be read on so many levels that anyone from about age 12 and up can get something out of this book. The book touches upon many themes: religion, politics, ethics, cloning, slavery, the drug trade, corruption and probably a few o
...more
Mel
You can also view this review, and others, on my blog thatgirlbookworm

I'm so happy that I've been reading such unique books lately! Before now I had heard of this book, as is normal since it's quite old, but I had no idea what it was about. I saw it recently at the library and read the blurb and it interested me so when I found it really cheap at a used bookstore I decided to buy it.
I'm glad I did! I really enjoyed it.
The setting is probably my favourite part. I love that it's pretty much in Mex
...more
Alex
Oct 07, 2008 Alex rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every one
freaking addicting read it 4 times.

This is the story of a clone named Matteo Alacran, or matt. Matt is a clone of the drug lord el patron. El Patron is very concerned about the wellbeing of matt. In this book matt grows from a skin cell to the age 16. During this time period he slowly learns why el patron is so worried about matt's well being. el patron has had clones before matt, he uses them for orgam transplants so he can live long. el patron is 140.


This book takes place in the future. Americ
...more
Amy
Nancy Farmer has a unique talent for creating action-packed novels set in some pretty wild places. In this case, the future is ruled by a Mexican druglord who clones himself in order to harvest organs when he needs them. The book follows the life of a clone.

Science meets social issues in Nancy Farmer's books. People who try to flee the Mexican border into the U.S. are captured in a new country ruled by the druglord, where they are imbedded with a computer chip in the brain to make them complace
...more
Thomas
Aug 23, 2009 Thomas rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Thomas by: Nancy
“The House of the Scorpion” is about Matteo Alacran, who is the clone of another Matteo Alacran. The original Matteo Alacran, also known as El Patron, was a power-hungry drug-dealer that created an evil empire filled with eejits, or people that have no will. Due to Matt being a clone, he is always treated differently – usually for the worse. He is trapped in the Alacran estate, a large mansion filled with people that have a personal distaste for him. Although he does make a few friends, such as ...more
Evgeny
Jul 05, 2013 Evgeny rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
First things first: I need to mention I received this book in Goodreads giveaways. I also need to mention that the real rating for this book is 3.5 stars as it is better than the majority of the books I rated with 3 stars, but it does not quite reach 4-star rating. I never felt more strongly about having 0.5 star rating on Goodreads since I joined it.

The plot: Matteo Alacran (Matt most of the time) is a clone of a very powerful drug lord El Patron who was created to provide replacement organs f
...more
Noella
Oct 24, 2015 Noella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before the story begins there was a list and brief description of each character and a family tree which was daunting, but the author masterfully introduced each of them and made them distinct and recognisable. The story details the life of Matt Alacran, the clone of an Opium drug lord from his young age to right until his teenage years. For the first few years of his life, he is sheltered and has little human contact except with his carer Celia. An unexpected visit from three children provokes ...more
Emily
Oct 20, 2011 Emily rated it it was amazing
What if you found out that you were a clone? Would your friends treat you differently? Should you have the same rights? In this fast-paced story, Matteo Alacran discovers he is in fact a clone for one of the most powerful and evil men on the planet. Does that mean he'll end up the same way? And just why exactly was he created? You've got to read the book!
Jessica
Dec 08, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow...Just wow.

Here is a list of awards this book has won:
National Book Award, 2002, Newbery Honor, 2003, Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book, 2003, Buxtehuder Bulle, 2003 (Germany), ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, IRA Young Adults' Choices,Sequoyah Young Adult Award, Volunteer State Award, 2006, Arizona Young Readers Teen Award, 2005, South Carolina Junior Readers Award, 2005-2006, Rhode Island Teen Book Award nominee, 2004, Young Hoosier Book Award, 2006, Nevada Young Readers' Award, 2
...more
Hannah
Aug 25, 2012 Hannah rated it it was ok
I read this as a possible choice to get a friend who's trying out reading some YA books in Spanish as he learns more, especially since one of the guys from my YA Literature class read it for a project we had to do, and said it was one of the best books he'd ever read. Perhaps his summary (without the ending, of course) spoiled the most novel parts of the book for me - the particulars of the dystopian setting, Matt's identity and destiny - but I was actually disappointed upon finishing this, and ...more
Monica
Jul 12, 2007 Monica rated it liked it
I enjoyed the fact that Nancy Farmer brought up some very pertinent issues through this novel—cloning, drugs, and finding a sense of belonging. Through Matt’s experience as a clone in Opium, a place where he is looked down upon by almost everyone, the reader identifies with his struggles and is rooting for him to find acceptance the whole way through the novel.

The author’s setting of the book in a country based upon the drug industry allows a lot of room for discussion about the topic, as with t
...more
Christie
May 19, 2015 Christie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, 2008
This book is exactly why many critics do not respect Young Adult Fiction as a genre. It won three different prestigious awards and the writing is barely passable. A work of literature this is not. The characters are flat, and while the story is somewhat fresh, the plotting is mostly predictable. The ending is neat and sappy. Instead of flashes of brilliant writing, we get flashes of clumsy writing and poor dialogue. I suspect it is award winning because it asks some interesting questions about i ...more
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Nancy was born in 1941 in Phoenix and grew up in a hotel on the Arizona-Mexico border where she worked the switchboard at the age of nine. She also found time to hang out in the old state prison and the hobo jungle along the banks of the Colorado River. She attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, earning her BA in 1963. Instead of taking a regular job, she joined the Peace Corps and was sent to ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Matteo Alacran (2 books)
  • The Lord of Opium (Matteo Alacran #2)

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“I always say the truth is best even when we find it unpleasant. Any rat in a sewer can lie. It's how rats are. It's what makes them rats. But a human doesn't run and hide in dark places, because he's something more. Lying is the most personal act of cowardice there is.” 437 likes
“I love you," Matt said.
I love you, too," Maria replied. "I know that's a sin, and I'll probably go to hell for it."
If I have a soul, I'll go with you," promised Matt.”
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