Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Team Katniss

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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, April 25th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Kristina Speaks Up

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Flirtin' with the Monster

Kristina Speaks Up

by "Kristina"

I’m not exactly sure where to begin, but to describe where my heart was at the beginning and how it got lost along the way. Any way you look at things, I’d like it to be known that I’ve always wanted to do the right thing. Even when it came right down to destruction and carnage in my wake, I looked upon myself in a kind of helpless and detached way: a flailing passenger on a tumultuous runaway train destined to destroy everything in my path, knowing my own demise will be eminent upon encountering the slightest obstacle yet unable still to do anything but watch on autopilot and hang on for dear life.

I don’t blame anyone for my actions, or try to blame a bad childhood for my faults–in all actuality, I had a very privileged upbringing. I didn’t really see it as such, being your typical teenager, but …

Available Until Friday, April 20th, 2018

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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, April 18th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Hunger Game Theory

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The Girl Who Was on Fire - Booster Pack

Hunger Game Theory

by Diana Peterfreund

The titular Hunger Games in Suzanne Collins’ series is neither about a game, nor about hunger (indeed, as we see in Catching Fire, the fact that District 12 won the Games in no way guaranteed them the supposed bountiful prize). It’s about political control by a despotic government over its downtrodden (and even its not-downtrodden) subjects.

And it’s all about game theory.

The first thing to keep in mind about game theory is that it’s not necessarily about games. If it were, you’d pretty much only have Scrabble champs and sabermetricians studying it. Instead, it’s a massive field populated by brilliant (even Nobel Prize—winning) economists, psychologists, mathematicians, evolutionary biologists, and politicians. Game theory is a mathematical approach to the study of decision-making. It’s about strategy, about how people are programmed to respond in various social situations, and about the forces that can predict the ways in which living things, companies, communities, and …

Available Until Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: O, To Be in Oxford

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Navigating the Golden Compass

O, To Be in Oxford

by Richard Harland

I want to ride through the night on an armored polar bear! I want to cut holes in the air and step through into other worlds! I want to fly in an airship over the Arctic snow! But most of all, I want to live like Lyra as a kid in her alternative Oxford!

What a life! Running on the rooftops, spitting plumstones onto the heads of passersby, engaging in alliances and wars, pelting the enemy with clods of earth! Or exploring underground cellars, drinking forbidden wine! Best of all–no parents!

Let’s face it. What’s the worst thing about being a kid in this non-alternative present-day reality of ours? It’s the way parents and adults want to involve themselves in your life, right? It’s the surveillance. Loving surveillance, caring surveillance–but still surveillance. Someone is always worrying themselves sick over you. If it’s not parents, it’s all the other adults. Medical specialists …

Available Until Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Language of the Heart

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Demigods and Monsters

The Language of the Heart

by Sophie Masson

When I was about nine, I had a horrible recurring dream. It was pretty simple. All I could see was a face, which at first was small and in the distance, but then got bigger and bigger till it seemed to be right on top of me. I couldn’t see a body, just a face. It was a monstrous face: very, very pale, almost gray-skinned, with big staring eyes so pale they seemed almost white and a thin pale mouth that opened on to long yellow teeth tipped with red. Straggly hair that seemed to move and lift in an invisible wind blew out aroundthe face as if there was an electric current running through it, or as if each hair was alive and wriggling horribly. I always woke up just as the mouth opened wide on a terrible scream, and I’d be screaming myself, yelling my head off.

My mother …

Available Until Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: My Boyfriend Sparkles

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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 Thursday, March 29th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Missing the Point

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Through the Wardrobe

Missing the Point

by Sarah Beth Durst

Remember Bambi? Cute deer. Cute bunny. Cute skunk. Very scary forest fire. Very traumatic death of Bambi’s mother. . . . Yeah, I don’t actually remember that last part. Seriously, when I saw Bambi, I didn’t realize that his mother died. I thought that Bambi’s parents were simply divorced and now it was time for his dad to have custody. Later, I was the kid in high school English who argued that Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” wasn’t about suicide. I thought it was a very nice poem about a pretty New England forest like the one behind my house, which was quite lovely, dark, and deep. So as you might imagine, I was also the kid who totally missed all the religious symbolism in the Narnia books.

But I still loved the books.

Why? Why do these books hold such sway over the hearts and imagination of …

Available Until Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

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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 Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The War between the States

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

The War between the States

by Claudia Gray

The online protests began around the time the makers of The Vampire Diaries cast Nina Dobrev as Elena Gilbert. Were fans of the book series worried that Dobrev couldn’t carry the central role? Nope. Were they advocating for another fan-favorite candidate? No again. There was no way Dobrev could play Elena–because Dobrev is a brunette, and in the original L.J. Smith books, Elena is a blonde.

It seems like a pretty small thing to get upset about, but when it comes to adapting a beloved book into film or television, fans understandably dread the inevitable changes. We’ve all been burned before by books that got “dumbed down” or turned into something unrecognizable from the story we originally loved. Even alterations as minor as a character’s hair color set off warning bells, making those of us who loved the books wonder just what else was about to get changed. But …

Available Until Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

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