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There Is a House In New Orleans

Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion, set in a dystopian world full of drugs and clones, has Meghan craving tacos and adding to her man-harem.

There Is a House In New Orleans

BOOK REPORT for The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Simple Simón
Bonus Factors: Margaret Atwood, Spike, Sassy Best Friend, Tasty Business, Cliff Huxtable Award of Awesome Dadhood
Relationship Status: Going Steady

The Deal:

First of all, CHECK OUT THOSE AWARD STICKERS. I know it's all fashionable to pooh-pooh awards, but they're usually given for a reason, and that reason is usually AWESOMENESS. I picked up this book to help ease the pain of my massive case of Chaos Walking TEABS, and Nancy Farmer did not disappoint.

When Matt is six, he meets other children for the first time. He also learns he's a filthy clone. All clones have their brains destroyed at birth except for Matt, who's the clone of El Patrón, the drug lord who controls the vast poppy estate in the country of Opium, a buffer zone between the United States and Aztlán (what used to be Mexico). As he grows up, Matt is treated like garbage by everyone but Celia and Tam Lin, the cook and bodyguard, and has to figure out what it means to be El Patrón's clone, Matt, and a free person in a world where computer chips control most human and animal brains.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Oh, little Matt, you're so cute! You're so confused and sad and lonely, and I promise I'd never treat you like dirt because you were grown in a cow instead of a human woman. I love watching you struggle with your sense of identity as you break through genetic predispositions and find your own way. Your loyalty and sense of justice do you credit, kiddo. I also want to give bff charms to Chacho and the totes adorbs Fidelito.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

The action's all really chaste here -- the only mentions puberty gets are acne and voice changes -- but Matt and Mara's relationship is very sweet. As a clone, Matt's considered no better than an animal, so Mara's devotion makes putting up with her crybaby ways worth it.

Talky Talk: Simple Simón

This book could go either YA or children's (think City of Ember books), so it's not exactly Proust, but the simplicity of the language suits Matt's innocence, and it does get gradually more complex as Matt develops and grows physically and intellectually. The only thing that bugged me were the immediate English translations after every Spanish phrase, rather than letting context clues do the work, but I'll let it go since hey, Spanish is being used as just another language, not a signpost for poor/immigrant/low class/gangbanger.

Bonus Factor: Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is my favorite sci fi (or speculative fiction, for you literary snobs) writer. I adore the way she takes things that are going on in real life, like genetic engineering or the vaunting of science at the expense of the arts or the religious conservative anti-feminist movement, and twists and prods it just a little bit farther, then stands back to watch what could be. It's what makes her novels so scary and believable, and it's what Farmer has done here with the drug war, anti-immigration, unfair labor, genetic engineering, communism, race issues and even gay rights.

Bonus Factor: Spike

Sadly, the brain chips in this book don't result in everyone's favorite government experiment.

Bonus Factor: Sassy Best Friend

I don't want to get into who Chacho is too much, but he's awesome. Not so sassy, but he totally doesn't take no shit.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

Matt's mother figure Celia is a cook! So he gets to eat yummy tacos and tamales and flan and roast pheasant every day! Lucky, lucky boy (except for the pheasant - I've never had it so I don't know. But I'd kill for some tacos right now).

Bonus Factor: Cliff Huxtable Award of Awesome Dadhood

Tam Lin, will you marry me? Or join my harem (himem? Whatevs). He's gentle and tough, understanding, sweet, intelligent and can beat the crap out of anyone, but would only do it to protect those he loves.

Casting Call:

As much as I'd like to cast Gael Garcia Bernal, he's a bit too old. But here's a picture of him anyway.

Diego Luna's not younger, but he looks more baby faced.

Diego Luna as Matt

Francis Capra as Chacho

Adrian Alonso as the adorable Fidelito

Relationship Status: Going Steady

This book didn't totally cure my TEABS, but I sure couldn't put it down! It alternated between heart-stopping action and long periods of quiet self reflection, so it's like going on a date to the biggest roller coaster in the world followed by reading Tennyson at a picnic on the lake -- aka, it would be snoozeville if the guy wasn't so hot, with those flashes of out-of-control excitement. And those flashes kept me going for now, even if there were too-tidy resolutions and a rushed ending.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.