Free Smart Pop YA Essay: How Panem Came to Be

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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

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

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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

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Unhomely Places

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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

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

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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

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Importance of Being Between

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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

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Why So Hungry for the Hunger Games?

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Why So Hungry for the Hunger Games?

by Sarah Rees Brennan

As you can tell from all the atrocious puns in the title, this essay will be studying the elements in the Hunger Games trilogy that inspire its tremendous popularity. It’s fascinating to analyze the mixture of elements that has caught readers’ imaginations around the world. What is so alluring about the Hunger Games’ particular mixture of adventure, romance, and philosophy? Many of the elements present in the series are familiar, so how does Suzanne Collins make it all seem fresh and compelling?

For a long time I avoided the Hunger Games because, well, I’d seen Battle Royale, thank you very much. (Battle Royale is a Japanese movie, based on the book of the same name by Koushun Takami, about high school students who are chosen by lottery to kill each other under new legislation introduced by a futuristic government.) I finally buckled under the weight of hearing everybody’s enthusiastic recommendations for six months, and then I read the Hunger Games voraciously …

Available Until Monday, August 15th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Edward, Heathcliff, and Our Other Secret Boyfriends

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A New Dawn

Edward, Heathcliff, and Our Other Secret Boyfriends

by Robin Brande

We all have our ideal, swoon-worthy romantic heroes: Aragorn in Lord of the Rings (sigh), Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack Shepherd on Lost, Justin Timberlake in “SexyBack”–whatever. But in her Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer has handed us the dreamiest of lovers, so beyond our regular fantasies we’re even willing to give up body heat in exchange for sleeping against the cold marble chest of that most perfect of formerly human men, Edward Cullen–giving hope at last to hundreds of men huddled in Antarctica with no sweeties to call their own. (Sorry, guys, but Edward means much more to us than chilly skin. Read on.)

In constructing her ideal mate, and giving him all the qualities a fifteen-year-old (okay, and older) girl needs in a romantic partner, Stephenie Meyer borrows some of the characteristics of other great lovers in literature. She drops hints throughout the series of who those …

Available Until Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Family Life in Panem

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The Panem Companion

Family Life in Panem

by V. Arrow

The most important things in Katniss’ life are survival and family, perhaps not in that order. The entire journey of the Hunger Games series begins because of Katniss’ devotion to Prim and her sense of duty to (and love for) family. However, as she tells the reader, “family devotion only goes so far for most people [in Panem] on reaping day.”THG31

A total of 1,776 children (73 Games — 24 tributes each, plus an additional 24 tributes in the Fiftieth Hunger Games) have been a part of the Hunger Games before Katniss volunteers in Prim’s place, and from the way Katniss tells it, very few–if any–have been spared their fate by family members before. Indeed, most of the nuclear families that we as readers encounter through the series are deeply dysfunctional and unhappy, and it’s hard to imagine them sacrificing so much for each other. What do we know about what …

Available Until Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Why Do So Many Monsters Go Into Retail?

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Demigods and Monsters

Why Do So Many Monsters Go Into Retail?

by Cameron Dokey

It’s not easy being a young demigod.

Just ask Percy Jackson. He can tell you.

Always assuming he has time to catch his breath between pursuing a quest or being pursued by the forces of evil hot on his trail, sometimes literally breathing down his neck right behind him.

In Shakespeare, there’s a stage direction that reads: Exit, pursued by a bear. (I am not either making this up. You can look it up for yourself if you want to. It’s in The Winter’s Tale, Act III, scene 3. And you thought Shakespeare was just some stuffy dead guy.)

But my point, and I do have one, is that the character in Shakespeare had it lucky. At least he knew it was a bear behind him. Whenever Percy Jackson flees the scene, he never knows what shape the thing after him might take. That’s one of the challenges of being chased by monsters. And …

Available Until Monday, August 8th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Curious Case of Primrose “Everdeen”

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The Panem Companion

The Curious Case of Primrose “Everdeen”

by V. Arrow

On the first day of kindergarten for Katniss and Peeta, when Prim was between six months and one year old, Mr. Mellark told his five-year-old son that he had been in love with Mrs. Everdeen, but that she “ran away with a coal miner” and he “had to” marry Mrs. Mellark.

Why was this still so salient and so fresh in his mind that he shared it with his five-year-old child?

It’s easy to extrapolate that the reason for his confession was in the schoolyard that morning, being kissed good-bye by the girl in a red plaid dress. However, it’s not the only reason fans have considered.

The question of Prim’s parentage is a significant point of analytical fandom debate. Is blonde-haired, blue-eyed Prim really the “passes”-for-merchant biracial daughter of dark-haired Mr. Everdeen? Or should Prim really be Primrose Mellark? There are staunch supporters on both sides of the issue.

Katniss does not at …

Available Until Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

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