Study Guide

The House of the Scorpion Genre

By Nancy Farmer


Adventure, Coming of Age, Science Fiction


When we think of "adventure," we always think of things like Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean. This book is totally at home in this crowd. There are loads of chases, fights, and action sequences. Matt is constantly fleeing danger, escaping a seemingly inescapable situation, and fighting for his life. Plus, we find ourselves on the edges of our seats quite a lot, which is a surefire sign of the Adventure genre.

Coming of Age

This story is broken into parts that center around Matt aging and becoming an adult. We begin when he's no more than a cell in a lab, and end when he's mature enough to run his own country. Talk about coming of age. The one thing that sets this book apart in the coming of age genre is that at the novel's end, Matt isn't really the age we'd normally hope for in a person running a country. He's still just a teenager. But he has come into his own as a person, and is an adult in many ways, regardless of his actual age. So while we're a little nervous, we think he'll do great.

Science Fiction

Science fiction focuses on "what ifs." What if time travel were possible? What if we could travel through space? What if aliens invaded? What if we could clone people? These "what if" questions are often about science and technology. And science fiction stories often (though not always) take place in imaginary futures. Seems like our The House of the Scorpion fits snugly in this category.

Even though science fiction is often set in the future, it's really all about the present. The House of the Scorpion is no different. Though Farmer includes futuristic technology and what if scenarios in her story, Farmer also asks us to think about a lot of present-day issues, like the drug trade and the Mexican-American border, or cloning. Using an imaginary future to shine a light on present-day issues is a classic form of science fiction. It's also quite sneaky.

We'd like to point out that there are a ton of other awesome Young Adult science fiction books out there. And if you find yourself ready to tackle more advanced sci-fi later, check out authors like George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, or the recent Never Let Me Go.

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