This award-winner would be a great selection for a middle school book club that might like a range of meaty ethical subjects to discuss. It is set in the future, when cloning and mind control are possible, thought not necessarily considered right. In general, clones are treated no better than animals, but in Matt's case, after initial mistreatment, he is brought into the family home and educated. In the country of Opium, the field workers and animals have a chip implanted in their brains so that they are little more than obedient zombies. In the country of Aztlan, Matt encounters adults who exert mind control over children via brainwashing, which could lead to great discussions on how individuality may or may not be valued in societies. As its name implies, the fortunes of Opium come from their main export, drugs, which are sent to Europe and other places far away from the setting of the story. Some characters do have access to drugs though, and at least one adult is an alcoholic. Drugs as a source of economic prosperity would be yet another interesting topic for discussion. Readers will also notice a stark difference in the tranquil, old world Mexican feel of El Patron's vast estate (modeled after the Mexico of his childhood) and the modern world on the outside, which includes hover cars and futuristic weapons. Matt and his caretaker refer frequently to The Virgin and the ideals that she upholds, though Catholicism is not specifically referred to. This book is not for the faint of heart--Matt at times suffers atrocious living conditions, observes general disregard for the lives of other slaves and clones, and a pet is killed. One character, who deeply regrets the actions of his youth, refers to his involvement in a terrorist bombing where children were killed by accident. Matt and his friend Maria have a strong bond and lead the fight for idealism and hope for a better future.