About the Book
Matt is a clone of El Patrón, a powerful drug lord of the land of Opium, located between the United States and Mexico. For six years, he has lived in a tiny cottage in the poppy fields with Celia, a kind and deeply religious servant woman who is charged with his care and safety. Though Matt has been spared the fate of most clones, who have their intelligence destroyed at birth, the evil inhabitants of El Patrón’s empire consider him a “beast” and an “eejit.” When El Patrón dies at the age of 146, 14-year-old Matt escapes Opium with the help of Celia and Tam Lin, his devoted bodyguard who wants to right his own wrongs. After a near misadventure in his escape, Matt makes his way back home and begins to rid the country of its evils.
Ask students to write down their definition of science fiction. Then have them discuss the meaning of cloning. Have the students debate whether a novel about cloning is by their definition considered science fiction.
- Matteo Alacrán is the clone of El Patrón, the lord of the country called Opium, and lives in isolation until children playing in the poppy fields discover him. Why is he so eager to talk to the children after he is warned against it? Why is Mariá especially attracted to Matt?
- Celia really believes that she is protecting Matt by keeping him locked in her cottage and ignorant about his identity. Discuss their relationship and debate whether this type of protection is indeed dangerous for him. How does Celia continue to protect Matt throughout his life on the Alacrán Estate?
- El Patrón celebrates his 143rd birthday with a large party. Though Matt was “harvested,” and doesn’t really have a birthday, the celebration is for him as well since he is El Patrón’s clone. How does Matt imitate El Patrón’s power when he demands a birthday kiss from Mariá? Discuss how El Patrón encourages Matt’s uncharacteristic behavior. Why is Mariá so humiliated by Matt’s demand? How does Matt feel the crowd’s disapproval?
- How does Tam Lin know that Matt’s future lies in finding the Convent of Santa Clara? Describe Matt’s journey to the convent. What does he discover along the way? Discuss Esperanza’s role in helping Matt gain his ultimate freedom — to live as a human.
- Because of how the novel is structured, it resembles acts and scenes in a play. Divide the class into five groups, and assign each group a section to write as a one-act play. Take dialogue directly from the book, and use a narrator to relate the story between speakers.
- Students may wish to read about how scientists are using cloning for medical research today. Have them read opposing viewpoints regarding the issues of human cloning at Human Cloning Foundation and Americans to Ban Cloning . Encourage them to debate the issues in class. How is this becoming a political issue?
- Ask students who have read The Giver by Lois Lowry to stage a conversation between Matt and Jonas. Have them discuss the community they left, their decision to leave and their method of escape, the ethical and moral issues related to human cloning in Matt’s community, and the releasing process in Jonas’s community. Have Matt explain to Jonas why he returns to Opium, and what he plans to do to transform the country.