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The House of the Scorpion

(Matteo Alacran #1)

by
4.10  ·  Rating details ·  72,754 ratings  ·  6,056 reviews
This modern classic takes on an iron-fisted drug lord, clones bred for their organs, and what it means to be human. Winner of the National Book Award as well as Newbery and Printz Honors.


Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium—a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called
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Hardcover, 380 pages
Published September 1st 2002 by Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books (first published 2002)
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RogueKnight Identical twins share the same exact DNA at birth but as they progress, they are exposed to different viruses. Viruses connect to DNA of a particular…moreIdentical twins share the same exact DNA at birth but as they progress, they are exposed to different viruses. Viruses connect to DNA of a particular cell. This changes .5% of their DNA. It seems small, but it changes them so they have different interests, beliefs, and hobbies. Experience also shapes a person. They may be the same by DNA, but their experiences are different.(less)
Rogue Dragon As a 13-year-old, having read it at the age of 12, I believe that 13 is a good age to read The House of the Scorpion. There are several instances in…more As a 13-year-old, having read it at the age of 12, I believe that 13 is a good age to read The House of the Scorpion. There are several instances in which dark and possibly scary themes emerge, so this book should only be read by confident readers in their early teens. This book contains instances of violence, abuse, and ethical issues concerning cloning, as well as drug use and religious debate. However, this should not tarnish the excellence of this book, as it deserves the Newbery Medal, and is a well-written book full of good messages and ideas.(less)

Community Reviews

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4.10  · 
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 ·  72,754 ratings  ·  6,056 reviews


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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
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Linda
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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Jack
Oct 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Maxwell
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Neal Shusterman
Mar 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best young adult novels I've ever read.
Tatiana
Oct 04, 2009 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
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Wicked Incognito Now
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
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Kylee
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
DUMBEST BOOK EVER!
Esther
Oct 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Reynje
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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Zoë
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Cindy Newton
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this to preview for future class use, and I'm very enthusiastic about possibly using it as a whole-class read in the future. It's chockfull of great issues to be explored in class discussions and writing assignments. Best of all, it is a compelling story that will definitely engage even our more reluctant readers.

In addition to that, I enjoyed it personally. Farmer creates a dystopian world that is believable due to the fact that it is based on so many of the issues we are dealing with to
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Maddie L
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very slow and boring at the beginning, but as I went on I started really enjoying it. I recommend it for people, but if you do decide to read it give it time before you decide you don't like it.
Evgeny
Jun 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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Meredith Holley
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
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AH
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to AH by: Moorchild
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
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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
Riley Schopf
A very beautiful story and had just stunning visualization. At one point in the story, Matt the main character, on a mountain, and the word choice is breath taking. A great choice is when the author is talking about the animal noises in the night, and the author describes it as 'wild music'. She also gives you a great story of gaining power and being able to control it, while also not letting it get out of hand.
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
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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
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Alex
Sep 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Mel
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Thomas
Aug 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Paige  Ingemunson
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
chloe ❀
Sep 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school, 2017
This book, wow. It's kind of weird, I guess? I have never read a book about clones and this is so unlike anything I've ever read. We were assigned to read this for school and most of the people in my class decided not to read it. I was very interested in this book and what it's about so I started reading it.

"Nancy Farmer's books are boring." - Chloe's friend, 2017

(I ignored her, lol.)

Well, to be honest, I found this book a little bit boring. Dystopian fiction isn't really my thing.

I felt so sor
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Joyce Yattoni
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all there is a whole lot going on in this novel. It is out if my usual preferred genre. I prefer to read about real people, with real problems. While this story is futuristic and science fiction it does deal with the century old questions of power, human relationships, and empathy for mankind. The setting takes place between Arizona and Northern Mexico. It prompted me to do a little research on the Ajo Mountains and salt mines as the author repeatedly referred to them. Matt, the protago ...more
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Around the Year i...: House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer 1 5 Jan 17, 2019 05:04PM  
Book Report 1 4 Mar 22, 2018 10:17AM  
Book Review: The House of the Scorpion 1 3 Aug 21, 2017 02:02PM  

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1,233 followers
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

Other books in the series

Matteo Alacran (2 books)
  • The Lord of Opium (Matteo Alacran #2)
“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.” 467 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.”
96 likes
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