Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Dangerous Dead

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Dangerous Dead

by John Edgar Browning

Reading the House of Night series is very much akin to reading Zoey’s favorite book, Dracula (1897), for like Bram Stoker’s novel, one will find also in the House of Night’s pages the subtle mingling of folklore and reality with popular fiction. It will probably come as little surprise to readers out there to learn that, when it comes to its vampyres, the House of Night is steeped in all three. However, which parts are “fiction” and which are “reality” may come as a shock and, in some cases, may even seem implausible.

Folklore has almost as many variations on the vampire as there are vampire films (at least 700 of which, or more, belong to Dracula or his semblance alone), and more often than not the two are confused for one another.

The House of Night series, and the various associations it conjures up, is no exception to this. However, the series’ treatment of the vampire mythology is surprisingly faithful to the folklore, …

Available Until Friday, January 30th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Ladies of the Night, Unite!

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Ladies of the Night, Unite!

by Jon Skovron

The Vampire Diaries is a perfect example of an age-old battle between opposites. Not Good and Evil, of course. Neither the book nor the show is so didactic as to portray any character as purely Good or purely Evil. No, I’m talking about that other age-old conflict: Boy Vampires vs. Girl Vampires. The conflict began a long time ago, in a place kind of far away . . .

The year was 1816. Many called it the “Year without a Summer” because of a series of strange weather events in northern Europe that extended the rains of spring straight into fall. The earnest young English physician John William Polidori found himself in a Gothic villa near Geneva with his good friend and frequent traveling companion, the poet Lord Byron, and guests Claire Clairmont, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Since they were forced to stay indoors by the …

Available Until Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

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A New Dawn

Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Romeo and Juliet nearly killed my GPA in high school. This is difficult for me to admit, being not only a literature geek, but a theater major. Shakespeare wrote some of the world’s most beautiful verse for those tragic lovers from Verona, but it took me a long time to understand why the play is a classic. What does this have to do with Stephenie Meyer’s compulsively readable, engrossingly gothic tale of Bella Swan and the vampire she loves? Well, Twilight is a little like Romeo and Juliet, except one of the pair is already dead. Meyer nods to this by opening New Moon with a quote from the play. Within the first chapter, Bella and Edward are discussing the similarities (sort of) between their relationship and that of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, and I’m patting myself on the back for my masterful insight. It’s the parallels to Shakespeare’s play that …

Available Until Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reimagining “Magic City”

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Nyx in the House of Night

Reimagining “Magic City”

by Amy H. Sturgis

My own journey to the House of Night began with an email from my little sister, Margret. She explained that I should read—no, had to read—the novels by P.C. and Kristin Cast. While I appreciated her recommendation, I wasn’t exactly in the market for new titles to enjoy. My “to read” stack already was well out of hand.

Then Margret changed my mind with one simple sentence: “The books are set in Tulsa.”

The next thing I knew, I was reading the opening scene of the first book, in which a vampyre Tracker Marks Zoey Montgomery in the hall of her school and my alma mater, South Intermediate High School, in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow. I was hooked.

Of course, familiarity has its own charm. Like Zoey, I’ve shopped at Utica Square, trusted meteorologist Travis Meyer for the day’s weather forecast, and even taken a science class from Mr. Wise, and this helped me to feel an immediate identification with the young …

Available Until Thursday, January 1st, 2015

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

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

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 Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Bonnie Bennett: A New Kind of Best Friend

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Bonnie Bennett: A New Kind of Best Friend

by Bree Despain

As an author of teen fiction, there are many things I
absolutely love about my job: meeting new people,
spending all day creating fictional boys for my readers to
crush on, and developing whole new mythologies inside my
head. But I have to say that one of the absolute best parts of
my job is that watching shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer,
Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars,
and Friday Night Lights is actually
considered work. After a long day of writing and mommyhood
there’s nothing better than cuddling up with my hubby
and a bowl of popcorn and firing up the TiVo.

Some may call this vegging.
I call it research.

You see, as I’m watching, I’m also taking mental notes on
the choices the writers and directors have made concerning
plot, dialogue, pacing, and the …

Available Until Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Politics of Mockingjay

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The Girl Who Was on Fire - Movie Edition

The Politics of Mockingjay

by Sarah Darer Littman

Maybe it’s because of my political background, but when I read Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series the focus was never about Team Gale or Team Peeta the way it was for so many readers; the romance was a subplot. I majored in political science in college, and when I’m not writing books for teens, I’m a columnist for Hearst newspapers and a writer and blogger for various political websites, including CT News Junkie and My Left Nutmeg. To my mind, the Hunger Games trilogy was always more about “The System”—a political system that would not just allow but require children to fight to the death in televised games.

According to an interview in the School Library Journal, Collins said she drew her inspiration for the Hunger Games from imagining a cross between the war in Iraq and reality TV, after flipping through the channels one night and seeing the juxtaposition between the coverage of the war and reality TV programming. While I’ve …

Available Until Friday, December 19th, 2014

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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 Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

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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, December 12th, 2014

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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, …

Available Until Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

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