Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

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Nyx in the House of Night

Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

by P. C. Cast

Even before I hit national bestseller lists, the two questions readers asked me more than any other were: 1) Where do you get your ideas? And 2) How much research do you do?

Okay, the two answers go hand in hand. Research has always been the foundation of my ideas. I actually enjoy researching, and I like doing it old style– paging through giant history and humanities textbooks in a musty research section of a library. As I go through tomes on history and sociology and mythology, my mind starts creating stories and pictures: changing, shifting, modernizing, rewriting. This process has always seemed totally normal to me. Ancient mythological tragedy? Bah! Everyone dies tragically with no happily ever after in history? No way! For as long as I can remember I’ve revised mythology, created worlds based on history, and then made the stories read the way I wanted them to read–quite …

Available Until Friday, December 1st, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: As Bad as They Wanna Be

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

As Bad as They Wanna Be

by Hilary Wagner

I Heart Hades

I’ll admit, all the gods get decent marks on the “coolness scale,” but in my book, Hades is top dog, or top hellhound in his case. Sure, he’s a little bit on the brooding side and in need of a quality self-tanner, but still, the dude sports some serious swagger. Percy may have no love for the guy, but even he admits in The Lightning Thief that Hades was the only god he’d met so far that appeared godlike.Think about it–he’s the essence of cool, clad in black, long-haired and lanky, hanging out in his alternative night-clubby underworld palace. Sure, there’s that raging smell of sulfur and those bothersome bloodcurdling screams, but I’d imagine that’s easy for Hades to stomach with his glitzy goddess wife Persephone at his side. To boot, he’s richer than all get-out, making Zeus and Poseidon look like minor players on the who’s-who-of-godly-wealth list. …

Available Until Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: The Girl Who Was on Fire

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Introduction: The Girl Who Was on Fire

by Leah Wilson

You could call the Hunger Games a series that is–like its heroine–on fire. But its popularity, in itself, is nothing new. We live in an era of blockbuster young adult book series: Harry Potter, Twilight, now the Hunger Games. It’s more unusual these days for there not to be a YA series sweeping the nation.

All of these series have certain things in common: compelling characters; complex worlds you want to spend time exploring; a focus on family and community. But the Hunger Games is, by far, the darkest of the three. In Twilight, love conquers all; Bella ends the series bound eternally to Edward and mother to Renesmee, without having to give up her human family or Jacob in the process. In Harry Potter, though there is loss, the world is returned to familiar stability after Voldemort’s defeat, and before we leave them, we see all of the main characters happily married, raising the next generation of witches and …

Available Until Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Ender's World

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Ender's World

Introduction: Ender's World

by Orson Scott Card

I thought I had a pretty good story when I gave my first draft of the original novelet “Ender’s Game” to my mother to type up for submission.

My mother had been another set of eyes on all my plays and my handful of previous stories. So even though I had long been a very fast and accurate typist myself, I passed her my longhand manuscript because I wanted to see how the story would work for her. This was my first serious attempt to write a sci-fi story to sell. My theatre company was getting good attendance, but losing money even with no rent and no salaries to pay (you can lose money on hit plays). I needed “Ender’s Game” to help me launch a non-theatrical writing career. As a non-fan of sci-fi, my mother would definitely let me know if I had something that would work outside the science …

Available Until Thursday, November 16th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

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Through the Wardrobe

Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

by Brent Hartinger

A wild forest grew across the street from the house in the suburbs where I grew up. Technically, it was merely a “holding basin”–a patch of land that city engineers had set aside from development to hold back the floodwaters that occasionally swelled up from the little creek that ran through the neighborhood. But it was dense and untamed; much of it was swampland, which made it inaccessible to all but those with a strong sense of adventure, not to mention hip-boots.

As a boy, my friends and I spent almost every waking hour in that forest, and slowly but surely it surrendered its secrets: a broken well, a decaying shack left by homesteaders, part of an abandoned railroad track said to have been laid over an old Indian trail. Once, while walking through dense thicket in the fall, my friends and I noticed that many of the trees were suddenly …

Available Until Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Secrets of the Dragon Riders

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

Introduction: Secrets of the Dragon Riders

by James A. Owen

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.

–ERASMUS

That quote by Desiderus Erasmus is usually mentioned, wryly, by someone who doesn’t share Erasmus’ point of view about someone who does. I’m so far in the latter category I can’t even see the other side. I am utterly addicted to print, and am physically incapable of passing a newsstand, bookstore, or secondhand shop without giving the books on display at least a cursory glance. More often than not (which means practically every single time) I make some kind of a purchase, and for a moment that new book might as well have been under a Christmas tree for all the love I foster on it.

To a lot of people, it might seem as if my priorities are a bit skewed–but I’m really just engaging in something as old …

Available Until Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

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

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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 Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

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

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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, November 1st, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: It's the Little Things

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Through the Wardrobe

It's the Little Things

by Susan Vaught

Permit me to remind you that a very small size has been bestowed on us Mice, and if we did not guard our dignity, some (who weigh worth by inches) would allow themselves very unsuitable pleasantries at our expense.

Reepicheep the High Mouse offers these words to Aslan in Prince Caspian.

His meaning?

Stop picking on him and his fellow soldier-mice just because they’re little guys. If you judge their worth by inches alone, you’ll pay a wicked price.

As one of the fiercest and most influential warriors of Old Nar-nia–and okay, okay, one of the tiniest–Reepicheep knows that mice and children must always guard their dignity because older, bigger creatures use age and size as an excuse to dismiss the intelligence, skill, and usefulness of smaller creatures. Villains and heroes alike make that error all through the Chronicles of Narnia, especially in Prince Caspian, and it’s–excuse the pun–a big …

Available Until Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: When Laws Are Made to Be Broken

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

When Laws Are Made to Be Broken

by Robin Wasserman

“We Shadowhunters live by a code, and that code isn’t flexible.”

–Jace Wayland, City of Bones

Imagine that your best friend came to you one day, brimming with excitement because she’d met these super-awesome new friends who suggested she come live with them, follow a bunch of arcane and unquestionable laws, and cut ties with all her old friends because they’re incapable of understanding her new super-awesome life.

If you’re a child of the ’80s like me, reared on a steady diet of Jonestown horror stories and trashy novels about brainwashed teens, you would immediately recognize the situation for what it was: Your best friend has joined a cult.

If you’re not a child of the ’80s but not completely oblivious, you’d still clue in pretty quick: definitely a cult.

Simon Lewis is far from oblivious.

As he tells his best friend, Clary Fray, in City of Ashes, “The Shadowhunter thing–they’re like a cult.” …

Available Until Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

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