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text 2016-05-02 21:22
Monday reading
The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer

If I could put myself in the book, I would be the kid who has to stay in is house. I would want to be that kid because he could never leave his house.  He doesn't know that much about life.

I would also like to be him because he has a friend named Maria who takes care of him. She tells him about Mexican folktales. Lastly, I would want to be him because he is scared to talk to people and he doesn't have much friends. 

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review 2015-12-21 02:14
The Lord of Opium
The Lord of Opium - Nancy Farmer

I loved The House of the Scorpion and was really excited to find out that it has a sequel.


The Lord of Opium is about Matt, a 14-year-old clone who has just inherited the largest drug empire in the world. Matt wants to make a few changes to the country he now rules. He wants to stop growing opium and grow food crops instead. He also wants to free the eejits—the mindless slaves who have microchips in their brains and work in the opium fields. Matt has lofty goals, but not everybody is supportive of his leadership. There are a lot of other drug lords who would love to overthrow Matt and take control of Opium.


Like I said, I loved The House of the Scorpion, but I have mixed feelings about this book. I didn’t love it as much as the first one.


I still really like the world, the characters, and the themes in this duology. The characters have Hispanic ancestry, and the country of Opium sits along what used to be the US/Mexico border. It’s a unique dystopian society that I haven’t seen before. I like the culture of the characters, and the books spend a lot of time on worldbuilding, which I appreciate (for the most part. The worldbuilding does make the books a little slow.)


Like the first book, the characters are the best part of this one. Matt is so complex. He wants to be his own person, but he’s a clone, so everybody expects him to be an exact copy of El Patrón. Matt also has to fight against his instincts because he wants to be good, but he’s the clone of an evil man. He doesn’t always make the best decisions.


The themes are interesting. I know that some people might get irritated because the book brings up current hot-button political issues. The book isn’t preachy about the issues, so it didn’t bother me. The story makes the reader wonder when a person starts and stops being a person. What is the definition of a “person”? It’s an interesting question that real-life people are still trying to figure out.


I enjoyed this book overall, but I had some problems with it.


First, it’s painfully slow. The House of the Scorpion is also on the slower side, but the characters and world were compelling enough to keep me reading. The Lord of Opium is just slow. All of the action happens at the end. Matt spends most of the book sulking, flying around Opium in a hovercraft, and telling people to “Shut up.” I understand that a 14-year-old drug lord will be busy and have a lot to mope about, but it doesn’t make for interesting reading. I wanted something to happen.


I also have issues with the romances. It’s hard to talk about this without wandering into spoiler territory, but I’m going to try. In the first book, Matt is romantically interested in his friend, María. In the second book, Matt and María are separated, and Matt develops romantic-ish feelings for an eejit he names Marisol. This relationship is creepy because Marisol has a microchip in her brain and can’t consent to anything that’s happening, but the relationship doesn’t bother me too much because it doesn’t go very far.


What bothers me is that when Matt and María are reunited, their relationship suddenly gets really serious. I didn’t believe it. Matt and María’s love is innocent and childlike in the first book, then Matt has his romantic-ish thing with Marisol, and then Matt and María suddenly want to spend the rest of their lives together. The author says that they’re in love, but I didn’t see the love. The relationship isn’t developed enough for me. This made the book’s ending fall flat, which is disappointing.


I didn’t like the sequel as much as I liked the first book, but I’m glad I read it. I love these characters and needed to know what happened to them. 

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review 2015-11-30 02:38
The House of the Scorpion
The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer

You know that you’re too old for YA when you don’t say “What a great adventure” while reading a book. Instead, you want to reach through the pages and pull the child characters to safety. This book definitely awakened some protective-parent instinct in me that I didn’t know I possessed.


Matteo Alacrán is the clone of a drug lord. As a child, he is kept in a chicken coop and treated like livestock. He’s destined to be harvested for parts when the elderly drug lord’s organs start giving out. If Matt wants to survive, he has to escape from the drug lord’s estate and cross the border to a country that used to be Mexico.


This is one of the most unique dystopias I’ve read in a long time. There are very few “good guys.” The characters are drug lords, terrorists, bullies, murderers, and generally horrible people. I also really like the setting. The characters have Latin American ancestry, and the story is set in what used to be rural Mexico. I’ve never seen that setting in a dystopia before.


Matt is my favorite part of the book. He’s the one who woke up my parent instincts. It was hard to see a young child being treated like livestock. The story takes place over several years, so the reader gets to see Matt grow from a child to a fourteen-year-old. I like Matt’s honesty and the bond that he has with his caretakers. Even though he’s a clone who was grown inside a cow, he has wonderful “parents” who he loves. The reader can really feel that love.


The themes of this book are intriguing. First, there’s the whole nature vs nurture thing. Matt wants to be a good person, but he’s the clone of an evil man, and he’s often treated like an animal. There’s a constant battle between Matt’s instincts and his desires.


The book is also about what it means to be human. In this dystopian world, some countries consider Matt a human and others consider him an animal. Matt isn’t sure what he should think about himself. Survival is difficult no matter where he goes.


I did have a few problems with the book. There are a lot of characters. I had to keep checking the family trees to remember why all of these people are important. The story is also slow in places, and I found my attention wandering. Finally, I didn’t like the chunk of the story that talks about socialism. This book confronts so many issues. The socialism feels like one issue too many. The story is complicated enough without it, and it isn’t developed as well as the other issues.


These problems are pretty easy for me to overlook. I adored this book. It made me think, and it reminded me why I fell in love with the dystopian genre years ago. It deserves the awards that are plastered all over the cover. I need the sequel immediately.

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text 2015-04-10 20:50
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer
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review 2015-01-12 03:46
The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion is so highly hailed and with an intriguing concept, so I had high hopes for this book.


I found the book incredibly unpleasant to read.  I'm not rating the book because I acknowledge that I am not the target audience, and that may be part of the issue.  I also thought the book was YA, and realized quickly it is intended for even younger audience.


It is a dark story with good complexity.  I just found the style of writing juvenille (of course, it is aimed at pre-teen children), with sentence after sentence of "[Name] did/felt/etc _____."  I also found the thought process and actions of the main character frustrating and annoying, on top of the fact that nearly everyone in the book is hostile at best and actively malicious and sadistic at worst.  I think the only character that I was really engaged by is the body guard, which is honestly a rather background role.

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