Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A New Eve

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Navigating the Golden Compass

A New Eve

by Dave Hodgson

Alongside the adventures, the love story, the battles and the fantasy, His Dark Materials holds a crucial prophecy: Lyra is to become the new Eve. This Eve’s purpose is not made fully clear, except that she should restore the Dust and begin to build a “Republic of Heaven.” But how will the members of this new republic behave? Like the previous regent of heaven who kept his predecessor alive in a box and those who endeavoured to destroy Dust, calling it “sin”? Clearly not. In fiction it’s easy to delineate between good and evil. At the end of The Amber Spyglass we’re left with the confidence that if Lyra succeeds she will begin a new direction for Homo sapiens: a new lifestyle that better values biodiversity, that harvests resources more sustainably and that acts unselfishly for the benefit of others.

With these optimistic thoughts we can all retire to our normal …

Available Until Thursday, September 28th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: By Their Marks You Shall Know Them

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Nyx in the House of Night

By Their Marks You Shall Know Them

by Jana Oliver

What exactly possessed primitive humans to inflict marks on their skin is hard to fathom. Perhaps one of the tribesmen had inadvertently gotten some dirt or ashes in a wound and once it healed, it remained discolored. While sitting around the fire swapping tales, his buddies might have made note of this new thing. With a little experimentation, they realized that if they opened a fresh wound, charred a stick, and buried the black residue inside the slice, the result was a tattoo. Proof that humans are endlessly inventive when they’re bored.

Thousands of years later we have a story about a high school girl who is having a rough day: while Zoey Montgomery is trying to cough her lungs out, her best friend is prattling on about Z’s drunken “almost” boyfriend and a football game. That all becomes irrelevant when Zoey spies the undead guy standing next to …

Available Until Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Panem et Circenses

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Panem et Circenses

by Carrie Ryan

In the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins takes our obsession with Reality TV and extends it to the most horrifying ends: a society that views kids killing kids as entertainment. It’s easy to find this an uncomfortable premise–to turn our noses up and say that while we may enjoy Survivor or Big Brother every now and again, we’d never let society slip to such levels. However, there’s also a deeper, more difficult message in the Hunger Games series: the extent to which media can be manipulated as a means of controlling the populace and how we as viewers have abdicated any agency in the process.

This then leads to an even more troubling aspect of the trilogy: our complicity in said message. But for the viewers’ participation, the Hunger Games would not exist in the same way that, but for our tuning in, Reality TV wouldn’t exist. …

Available Until Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

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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, September 20th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: To Bite, or Not to Bite; That is the Question

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A New Dawn

To Bite, or Not to Bite; That is the Question

by Janette Rallison

What’s your definition of a bad day? A fight with a friend? A speeding ticket? How about being attacked by a vampire and painfully turned into the undead, then realizing you must wander for eternity fighting off a craving to kill people? Yeah, that would pretty much be a bad day.

Carlisle, the leader of the Cullen clan of vampires had this bad day and (we can assume) many other bad days that followed. Stephenie Meyer doesn’t skimp when dishing out problems for her characters. Seriously, if you were Cinderella and could choose someone to be your fairy godmother, you wouldn’t want it to be Stephenie Meyer. Sure, she could come up with the ultimate Prince Charming to take you to the ball, but he might kill you afterward.

Anyway, this particular bad day of Carlisle’s, when he was attacked and transformed into a vampire, started the ball rolling for the Twilight …

Available Until Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Secret's Out

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Flirtin' with the Monster

The Secret's Out

by Terri Clark

We who have a voice must speak for the voiceless.

–Archbishop Oscar Romero

Ellen Hopkins has a voice, one that speaks in rhythm and verse, with truth and grit. She speaks for the voiceless, revealing their tragedies, exposing their complex personal layers, whispering their secrets. In lyrical tones and sparse but striking words she delves into the darkness many real-life teens find themselves in. She tells the stories they hide from or hold tight to their chests.

The endings of those stories aren’t always happy, but then again neither is reality. Because of this Ellen refuses to tie things up with a perfect, pretty bow. When a reader fussed about her endings on a message board, Ellen responded by saying, “Life rarely ties everything up nicely, and while often novels do, those feel-good endings are contrived. I’d rather give you honesty.”

And that she does.

Her books tackle tough, often taboo, topics like …

Available Until Friday, September 8th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: What Does That Deviant Wench Think She's Doing? Or, Shadowhunters Gone Wild

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

What Does That Deviant Wench Think She's Doing? Or, Shadowhunters Gone Wild

by Sarah Rees Brennan

“So, technically, even though Jace isn’t actually related to you, you have kissed your brother.”

–Simon Lewis in City of Glass, telling it like it is

I hope, with this saucy title, that everyone has flipped right from the table of contents to this essay. Hi, guys! Almost every other essay will be more coherent and intelligent than this one, but if you want dirty jokes, you have come to the right place. Welcome to Sarah’s School of Deviant Literary Analysis, where everyone gets to canoodle, including Magnus Bane’s magnificent self.

And since I invoked Magnus Bane’s name because I was shamelessly cribbing off a phrase he used in City of Bones (nobody canoodles in his bedroom but his magnificent self), let’s begin my list of shameless debauchees (otherwise known as Cassandra Clare’s cast of characters) with a look at Magnus: warlock, Downworlder, fashion icon. Though the angel Raziel says that …

Available Until Thursday, September 7th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Best Friends for Never

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Best Friends for Never

by Robin Wasserman

This whole game is just designed to make us hate ourselves.

Shay, in Uglies

I am a natural born sidekick.

I say this with neither pride nor shame. It’s just a fact of my life that for every time I’ve been the star, there have been approximately 8 million more times that I’ve been the planet, circling in orbit around someone else’s bright flame.

Because I’ve been there myself, I pay closer attention than most to the girl behind the curtain. So I can admit, after close analysis, that in many ways Shay is the perfect sidekick for Tally Youngblood. In the tradition of all the greatest sidekicks (cf. Dr. Watson, Paris Geller, Mr. Smithers, Chewbacca), Shay’s overlooked and undervalued. And no matter what Tally does, Shay forgives her. She gets mad, she gets even–and then she comes back for more. She’s the wind beneath Tally’s wings. She’s a friend in deed …

Available Until Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: The Panem Companion

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The Panem Companion

Introduction: The Panem Companion

by V. Arrow

The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, is arguably the most significant Young Adult literary work of the last few years; it has certainly been the most visible. It has also been lauded for its accessibility to a wide audience, from students reading it as an assignment in schools to adult men and women reading it for its literary value–or to see what all the fuss is about.

What is that fuss about? What makes the Hunger Games so compelling as to have become an international phenomenon? On first blush, the synopsis of the series does not exactly sound like the kind of pleasant, jaunty read that most casual readers would seek out–the story of a girl trying to survive a gladiatorial battle to the death in a televised competition, which ends with a war that kills most of the beloved characters–and its status as a young adult novel would seem, …

Available Until Monday, September 4th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

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The Panem Companion

Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

by V. Arrow

Although Mockingjay is easily the least popular of the three Hunger Games series novels, it is not due to any lack of intrigue, excitement, romance, world-building, or character development. Most commonly, this is attributed to the final novel’s lack of continued delineation between “good characters” like Gale and Peeta and “bad characters” such as President Snow. Mockingjay hinges on providing no good guys, bad guys, or morally satisfying conclusions to Panem’s–or Katniss’–story.

This is implicit from very early in the book, when Katniss first arrives in District 13 and learns that, rather than being a small, struggling, ragtag commune, District 13 is a thriving, strict, structured society. The Capitol’s citizens are ignorant of the horror of the Games; the citizens of District 13 know, understand, and purposely ignore the horror of the Games, so long as their lives are not affected. This similarity between ignorant compliance and willful negligence, and what …

Available Until Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

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