Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Eating in Narnia

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Through the Wardrobe

Eating in Narnia

by Diane Duane

One thing a traveler among universes quickly discovers is that, in many of them, the food’s terrible.

This is at least partly a situational problem–a matter of perception. Normally, when people from Earth pass through other fictional universes, they’re not there for a pleasure cruise. Normally there’s a quest involved, so that they usually wind up running away from something (Orcs, unfriendly armies, assassins, eldritch monsters), hiding from something (ditto), or otherwise getting too preoccupied with local events to care much about the catering. While this is entirely understandable, it’s still unfortunate. Unless a given universe’s creator is kind to you, you will never have a chance to sit down and appreciate the local cuisine. Among the less kind (or lazier) creators, you’re likely to wind up eating nothing but the fantasy version of fast food: waybread. No matter what kind of valuable life lessons you might learn from such a …

Available Until Thursday, May 31st, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: King Edmund the Cute

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Through the Wardrobe

King Edmund the Cute

by Diana Peterfreund

Let’s get it straight: I wasn’t sitting around writing “Diana Hearts Edmund” in my Trapper Keeper, but I had an enormous crush on Edmund Pevensie when I was a kid. When I admit that to people, then and now, I invariably get a reaction that’s halfway between bemused and appalled. Edmund? they say. Isn’t he the petulant, whiny traitor responsible for Aslan’s death?

Yes, yes he is. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But that’s only the start of Edmund’s adventures in Narnia. He pulls it together by the end of that book and proceeds to rock out for four more. No, Ed doesn’t leave us with the best first impression in all of literature, but he more than makes up for it in the rest of the series.

If anything, his experiences in the first book1 give him a breadth of knowledge and depth of experience and sorrow …

Available Until Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Case Notes: Salvatore, Stefan and Salvatore, Damon

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Case Notes: Salvatore, Stefan and Salvatore, Damon

by Heidi R. Kling

Note: Since the subjects are fictional characters, rather than sit down
with them separately or together, the therapist viewed twenty-two
hours of tape footage (one “season”) depicting their interactions with
one another and with others.

 

Stefan Salvatore

Observations

Appearance

Stefan Salvatore is male, Caucasian, appearing to be about
seventeen years old (younger than his stated age of 162).
Stefan stands approximately 5’10”. With a coif of stiff “James
Dean” hair, a black leather jacket, and expensive designer
pants, he resembles a rebellious–albeit wealthy and wellgroomed–
teenager from the 1950s. Other than an ornate
ring he wears no jewelry. His build is athletic, with an
emphasis on weightlifting; the thin black T-shirt he wears
reveals clearly defined pectorals. Though Stefan is officially
undead, he appears healthy.

Available Until Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Show Me, Don't Tell Me

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Navigating the Golden Compass

Show Me, Don't Tell Me

by Daniel P. Moloney

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is obviously indebted to the Christian story and derives much of its form from it. But rather than trying to write a modern Christian allegory in the fashion of C. S. Lewis, Pullman attempted to write an anti-Christian allegory based on a revisionist interpretation of Paradise Lost in which Satan is the hero. Pullman has made no secret that he intends his story to be offensive to Christians, and in this he succeeds (after all, to offend, it is sufficient to communicate one’s desire to offend). But, his scorn for the Church aside, the religion to which Pullman’s novel is opposed is such a caricature of real Christianity that most Christians would join him in rejecting it. At his best, his storytelling even advances Christian themes and values.

Pullman’s best is very good, and not offensive to Christians. It’s when he tries to propose anti-Christian …

Available Until Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Freedom of Choice

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Nyx in the House of Night

Freedom of Choice

by Jeri Smith-Ready

It’s not easy being the Chosen One. Just ask Buffy Summers. Ask Harry
Potter. And ask Zoey Redbird, the latest in this list of “lucky” candidates picked
by fate to save the world from darkness–and oh yeah, find romance, keep their
friends, and maybe not flunk every class. In their spare time, of course.

You’d think the act of getting chosen would be the biggest hurdle of all.
Once you know you’re The One, every choice should be easy. Simply “do the
right thing,” and the rest will follow. After all, you were chosen for a reason,
so you must be destined to succeed, right?

Alas, destiny isn’t a straight, well-paved road. Sometimes it’s not even a
rocky, overgrown bike path. All the signs point in different directions, and
half of them aren’t even in English (they might be in another language–or

Available Until Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: As Time Goes By

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A New Dawn

As Time Goes By

by K. A. Nuzum

As New Moon opens on the morning of her eighteenth birthday, Bella is dreaming of her grandmother–her dear, old, wrinkled grandmother. Edward–beautiful, youthful Edward–saunters into the scene, and Bella is faced with having to tell her grandmother she loves a vampire–and she thinks that’s the disturbing part of the dream. But suddenly, Bella realizes:

There was no Gran.
That was me. Me in a mirror. Me–ancient,
creased, and withered.
Edward stood beside me, casting no reflection,
excruciatingly lovely and forever seventeen.

Tick Tock

Forever seventeen. Two simple words, and yet they provide three books’ worth of heartache for Bella and Edward. By the end of Breaking Dawn we know that everything turns out swell for the two (now three, counting Renesmee), but while Bella is still human, growing up and growing old are major concerns for her. After all, as New Moon opens, year eighteen is …

Available Until Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

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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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