Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Not Even the Gods Are Perfect

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Demigods and Monsters

Not Even the Gods Are Perfect

by Elizabeth E. Wein

Maybe your brain is hardwired to read Ancient Greek. Maybe you’re struggling to read this book. You wish it was in an alphabet you recognized. You wish the words didn’t look like brainteaser puzzles.

It’s far more likely that if you’re reading this, reading comes easy to you. Maybe you look at the kid in your class with learning disabilities and you think, “Must be stupid–he can barely read.”

Maybe you feel sorry for him. Maybe you’re interested in finding out more, but you’re shy and embarrassed and avoid making eye contact or talking to him, because he’s so different and you don’t know what it’s like and you don’t want to say the wrong thing.

Maybe you make fun of him. Maybe behind his back, so he won’t know.

Maybe to his face. “Hey, here’s a hard one for you, what’s two plus two?” It’s got nothing to do with reading, but it’ll …

Available Until Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

 Continue Reading “Not Even the Gods Are Perfect”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Team Katniss

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

The Girl Who Was on Fire

Team Katniss

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

These days, it seems like you can’t throw a fish in a bookstore without hitting a high-stakes love triangle–not that I recommend the throwing of fish in bookstores, mind you (it annoys the booksellers–not to mention the fish), but it certainly seems like more and more YA heroines are being faced with a problem of abundance when it comes to the opposite sex. While I am a total sucker for romance (not to mention quite fond of a variety of fictional boys myself), I still can’t help but wonder if, as readers, we’re becoming so used to romantic conflict taking center stage that we focus in on that aspect of fiction even when there are much larger issues at play.

No book has ever made me ponder this question as much as Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy–in part because it seems like everyone I know has very strong feelings about which boy is the best fit for Katniss, but also because the books themselves contain …

Available Until Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

 Continue Reading “Team Katniss”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: All That Glitters Is Not Hovery

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Mind-Rain

All That Glitters Is Not Hovery

by Lili Wilkinson

Teens are generally more interested in language than adults. They produce more slang, more poetry, more neologisms and nicknames, and memorize more song lyrics than their elders. They’re still acquiring language in ways that most adults aren’t: as a tool for self-definition.

–Scott Westerfeld1

Shay sometimes talked in a mysterious way, like she was quoting the lyrics of some band no one else listened to. (Uglies)

What if you had no control over your body? The way you looked, what you wore? How your brain worked? How would you still know that you were you?

When you see me, how do you know I’m me, and not someone else?

There’s how I look, where I live, what I wear. What I listen to, read, watch.

And there’s the way I talk.

I live in Melbourne, Australia. Here, when you blow off fifth period and go shopping, you’re wagging. When I give someone a …

Available Until Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

 Continue Reading “All That Glitters Is Not Hovery”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Crime of Fashion

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

The Girl Who Was on Fire

Crime of Fashion

by Terri Clark

Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and
they remember the woman.

–Coco Chanel

By its very definition, “fashion statement” means our clothes speak for us. When a person thinks of that phrase, they are most likely to picture someone whose conscientious choice of attire stands out and evokes a strong response. Right now, Lady Gaga is the poster child for making provocative fashion statements. Who else would don a raw meat dress designed by Franc Fernandez and say it was in protest of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy? Yet, if she yanked on a pair of tattered sweats and a Hanes t-shirt among friends in the privacy of her own home, that too would articulate something about her. Because even when we’re not trying to draw focus to ourselves, what we choose to wear still makes a statement.

Our clothing tells other people who we are, whether we value comfort over frivolity, brand names over money-saving …

Available Until Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

 Continue Reading “Crime of Fashion”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: My Boyfriend Sparkles

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

A New Dawn

My Boyfriend Sparkles

by Anne Ursu

Each night I ask the stars above Why must I be a teenager in love?

–Dion and the Belmonts

Bella Swan thinks of her relationship with the vampire Edward Cullen in great sweeping terms–Romeo and Juliet, Catherine and Heathcliff. And their story certainly has echoes of those iconic lovers; they are star-crossed, ardent, destined for each other, eternal, doomed. But as extraordinary as their relationship is, it is also quite ordinary, and familiar. The overwhelming intensity of their romance makes sense because Bella and Edward are teenagers, and never is the rhetoric of star-crossed love and eternity so plausible as at that time in life. And while Edward isn’t exactly human, their relationship is very much so, and its course closely follows familiar tropes of teen love, for better or for worse. Bella Swan’s relationship with Edward Cullen is immortal, dangerous, forbidden, impassioned, allconsuming–in short, exactly like first love.

I Was …

Available Until Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

 Continue Reading “My Boyfriend Sparkles”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: How Panem Came to Be

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

The Panem Companion

How Panem Came to Be

by V. Arrow

Although conjectures about geological cataclysm would explain the physical borders–perhaps even the provincial organization–of Panem, its true dystopian horror comes from a cataclysm of a more anthropogenic nature. Panem is post-apocalyptic because of the end of our known world geography, but it is dystopian because of its political, socioeconomic, and cultural collapse and the ways it is dealt with by the Capitol. After all, it isn’t centralized government like the Capitol’s or geographically disparate states that is frightening; it is the operation of the Hunger Games, a system that targets its disenfranchised for death. Although employing the Hunger Games as reparations for civil war is unjust enough, the Games’ enforcement of a society built on institutional classism–and, we can infer from the text, racism–is truly horrifying. (Racism and classism will be discussed in chapters three and four.) Shifting geography alone could not cause this kind of catastrophic change in ideology–so …

Available Until Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

 Continue Reading “How Panem Came to Be”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Why Kristina Can't Just Quit

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Flirtin' with the Monster

Why Kristina Can't Just Quit

by Mary Bryan

Addiction is a puzzle, difficult to understand because it is different in each person. It is a disease of the brain, but it is not just physical. It’s also psychological, social, neurological, and environmental. Addiction is not secondary to another condition like a mental health disorder. It is a primary condition; the addictive disease is what causes the drinking and/or drug use, not the other way around.

Some of the predictors of addiction include physical or sexual abuse, family history of substance abuse or alcoholism, depression, anxiety, conduct disturbances, personality disorders, poor coping skills, chaotic living environment, and heavy tobacco use, and one study even mentions previous multiple automobile accidents. But while there are high-risk predictors, many people who have all of them do not become addicts, and people who have none of the predictors do become addicts. No one can predict accurately who will become addicted and who will not.

The Addictive Process

The general pattern of addiction is one of progression. There is no …

Available Until Friday, August 26th, 2016

 Continue Reading “Why Kristina Can't Just Quit”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Unhomely Places

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Unhomely Places

by Kate Milford

There is the world you know, the world you have always known; and then you blink, and there is a place you never had any inkling of, and it spreads out across your eyescape. And then, most shockingly of all: There is the realization that these two places are one and the same. It turns out you never really knew the world around you at all. This is often the moment at which the adventure begins: Your street has gone feral and has carried your house and all of your neighbors’ homes to another part of your city; your child is a changeling; your wardrobe is a doorway to a pine forest where it is always winter but never Christmas. Or you witness something that could not have happened: a murder, perhaps, in which three kids your own age kill a fourth, none of whom anyone but you can see.

Much …

Available Until Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

 Continue Reading “Unhomely Places”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: In Which Our Intrepid Heroines Discuss the Merits of the Bad Boy Versus the Reformed Bad Boy

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

In Which Our Intrepid Heroines Discuss the Merits of the Bad Boy Versus the Reformed Bad Boy

by Alyxandra Harvey

Night trembled on bat wings over the treetops.

“Well, that’s just awful.” Lizzie scratched it out so ferociously the paper pockmarked. The candle next to her elbow rattled. “It’s about vampires, of course it’s got bats and night.”

She was still sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table and scowling at the offending description when Cat burst into Lizzie’s parents’ sunroom. “I know! I know! I’m late,” she said, sounding out of breath, as always. “I got this text from Edw–oooh, hey, is that Vampire Diaries?” She plopped onto a chair facing the television, entranced. “Damon totally takes his shirt off in this episode.”

“You’re late,” Lizzie said.

“Shh. Damon.”

“Please, Stefan’s cuter.”

Cat looked away for barely a second, one eyebrow raised in patent disbelief. “Is not.”

Lizzie pointed to the screen. “Look at that half smile. Those eyes. You can just tell he’s deep. …

Available Until Friday, August 19th, 2016

 Continue Reading “In Which Our Intrepid Heroines Discuss the Merits of the Bad Boy Versus the Reformed Bad Boy”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Importance of Being Between

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Flirtin' with the Monster

The Importance of Being Between

by Micol Ostow

In-Between Places

If you’ve ever had any occasion to visit my official author website, you might know that it describes me as “half Puerto Rican, half Jewish, half student, half writer, half chocolate, half peanut butter.” I’m here to tell you that it’s all true, every last word. I am a mutt, through and through. And darn proud of it.

Full disclosure, though: I haven’t always been as comfortable with my mixed-breed status as I am these days. Anyone grappling with a diverse ethnic or cultural background (which, I would venture to say, is most of us) knows from the experience of constantly wanting to check the “other” box on the questionnaire of Life, probably all too well. As if it were that simple, defining ourselves by the things we are not (in my case: patient, blonde, and mathematically inclined, just for starters). As if the very act of labeling ourselves–carefully, definitively, …

Available Until Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

 Continue Reading “The Importance of Being Between”»

Stay Updated

Our Books

  • Latest Free Essays
  • Latest Contests
  • Latest Interviews
  • Latest Excerpts