Literary Criticism and Significance
Nancy Farmer is an acclaimed young adult author with several Newbery Honor Awards to her credit. The House of the Scorpion is one, winning not only the Newbery Honor Award but also the 2002 National Book Awards medal, along with nearly a dozen other awards across the nation and throughout the world. Farmer has alluded to a possible sequel in which she will continue Matt's story and further develop the imaginative world that she created for this book.
Published in 2002, this science fiction book was met with positive reviews that praised its complex moral themes, Matt's well-rounded character with its balance of "idealism and . . . intelligence," and its imaginative projections into the future of relations between Mexico, the United States, technology, and the drug trade. Despite its serious subject matter and often horrifying accounts of zombie drones and human cruelty, critics emphasize that it was more a story of "friendship, survival, hope and transcendence" that was optimistic in its conclusions about human nature instead of focusing in more gratuitous ways on its horrific elements. The book was also praised for its intriguing plot twists; constant suspense; and the world that Farmer created that, despite being in the future, was completely accessible and "eerily real." Some criticism resulted from the marketing age, which was set as low as eight years old; many felt that the novel, with its mature moral themes and rather disturbing elements of violence and deprivation, was much too adult for that young age and instead recommended it more for preteens and young teenagers. Another criticism was that it was probably "longer than it needed to be" and that its length (380 pages) might be an issue for many preteen readers. Because of its literary acclaim, respectful treatment of many complex themes, and areas for discussion, this book is expected to be a favorite among teachers and readers alike and one that will provide useful insights that are on the forefront of cultural significance today.