Two years ago, “The Scorpion Rules” would be a book I aspired to like. But now I’m not afraid to dislike a book with so much promise, a book that could have been a modern classic had it lived up to the hype. So I’ll say it like it is: “The Scorpion Rules” is cursed by its inability to surpass its summary on Goodreads. In other words, the novel is actually remarkably confusing and unbelievably boring considering how many times goats are mentioned.
In “The Scorpion Rules,” the royals aren’t as privileged as they’d like to be. Greta is a crown princess and a hostage to peace. This is how to play the game: give up one of your children if you want to rule. Go to war, and your hostage dies.
Greta will be free if she can survive until her 18th birthday. Until then, however, she lives in the Precepture school with the other royal children who have been sacrificed. Like them, she obeys the machines that control their lives. Like them, she has accepted the possibility of dying. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives.
Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality around her. As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta must find in herself the power to break all the rules.
Isn’t the premise amazing, aside from the whole girl-meets-boy-who-changes-her-forever thing? Yeah, I thought so too until I started reading the novel. In overemphasizing Greta’s world, the author misses out on explaining the plot. Thus begins the never ending confusion that plagues the entirety of the book. From what I can tell, the author attempts to subvert the overdone tropes of young adult fiction. Unfortunately, I was so confused and annoyed that I didn’t bother to figure out if the tropes were subverted in the end.
Aside from the mess of a plot and the subpar characters, there were a few gems in the rubble: diverse characters, interesting ideas about artificial intelligence and war and one heck of a UN ambassador. (I’d totally read a book narrated entirely by Talis.) These gems, however, cannot make up for what the book lacks: clarity, concision and charisma.
But I’m just going to say that they get really close to making the book a bearable read.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (September 22nd, 2015)
Length: 384 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN #: 9781481442718