Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Percy, I am Your Father

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Demigods and Monsters

Percy, I am Your Father

by Sarah Beth Durst

Note to self: Do not become a parent in a fantasy novel.

Seriously, have you ever noticed how disturbingly often parents in fantasy novels are dead, kidnapped, missing, clueless, distant, or unknown? Kind of makes me want to round up all the authors, sit them on those pleather psychiatrist couches, and say, “Now, tell me about your mother . . .”

On the other hand, it works very nicely as a storytelling device: Get the parents out of the way and then something interesting can happen. I think of it as the Home Alone technique. You see it in books by C. S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket, J. K. Rowling . . . and you definitely see it in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. All the kids at Camp Half-Blood, including the protagonist, Percy, are separated from their parents.

But are the parents really gone from the story? True, they don’t …

Available Until Friday, March 31st, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Good Girl Always Goes for the Bad Boy

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A New Dawn

The Good Girl Always Goes for the Bad Boy

by Megan McCafferty

The Twilight series has been on my should-read list for some time. I was drawn to Twilight in the bookstore shortly after it came out. The striking crimson-on-black cover art–pale hands held out in offering, tempting readers with an Edenic apple–bore no resemblance to the glittery pink books surrounding it on the shelves.

Then I read the plot synopsis:

About three things I was absolutely positive:

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him–and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be–that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

Yikes. As the author of books for teens, it’s my job to familiarize myself with the most popular and best-reviewed books for young adults. But I had no interest in reading a gothic love story about teenage vampires. Generally speaking, I like my teen entertainment to be based on reality. …

Available Until Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

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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 Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

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Through the Wardrobe

Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

by Deb Caletti

When I was in the sixth grade, I loaned my copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Lisa Miller and never got it back. Not that I hold a grudge. Lisa had a surgery that required breaking both her legs and resetting them, putting her in a wheelchair for the good part of a year. Flimsy excuse, yes? I mean, this was my beloved and cherished copy, part of the ENTIRE SET of the Chronicles of Narnia that my parents had given me for Christmas when I was ten. An entire set of Narnia books without The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe–it’s like an entire set of dishes without the, well, dishes.

I still remember getting those books. For some reason, my mother had hidden them, unwrapped, inside a set of decorative drums that were underneath the Christmas tree. One day I was messing around, as …

Available Until Friday, March 17th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Shadowhunters and Downworlders

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Introduction: Shadowhunters and Downworlders

by Cassandra Clare

There’s a question that every writer both is intimately familiar with and dreads having to answer. Where did you get the idea for your books?

It’s not because it’s a bad question. It’s a fair question to ask, and it’s not as if we don’t understand why we get asked it–of course people are curious about the genesis of an idea! But the truth is it’s very rare that any book or series of books grows out of one single idea. Usually it grows the way a rolling stone gathers moss or the grit in an oyster adds layers until it’s a pearl. It begins with the seed of an idea, an image or a concept, and then grows from there as the writer adds characters, ideas they love, bits and pieces of their fascinations and interests, until they’ve created a world.

I’ve told the story of “how I got the idea …

Available Until Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

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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, March 8th, 2017

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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 Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: When Laws Are Made to Be Broken

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

When Laws Are Made to Be Broken

by Robin Wasserman

“We Shadowhunters live by a code, and that code isn’t flexible.”

–Jace Wayland, City of Bones

Imagine that your best friend came to you one day, brimming with excitement because she’d met these super-awesome new friends who suggested she come live with them, follow a bunch of arcane and unquestionable laws, and cut ties with all her old friends because they’re incapable of understanding her new super-awesome life.

If you’re a child of the ’80s like me, reared on a steady diet of Jonestown horror stories and trashy novels about brainwashed teens, you would immediately recognize the situation for what it was: Your best friend has joined a cult.

If you’re not a child of the ’80s but not completely oblivious, you’d still clue in pretty quick: definitely a cult.

Simon Lewis is far from oblivious.

As he tells his best friend, Clary Fray, in City of Ashes, “The Shadowhunter thing–they’re like a cult.” …

Available Until Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

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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, February 15th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Misunderstood

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Nyx in the House of Night

Misunderstood

by Kristin Cast

Zoey Redbird takes a lot of crap for having multiple boyfriends. I’m sure, if she were sitting here next to me, she would be pretty upset about being called a slut, a tramp, a whore, and all of the other negative nouns that are thrown at her. I get tons of messages on Facebook from people who make hurtful comments, and I know that our administrative assistant Camden Clark, who keeps up with our House of Night Facebook, MySpace, and email, constantly has to stand up for Zoey. (I do want to point out that, in earlier novels, the guys in Zoey’s life should have definitely known about each other. The whole not-being-honest thing doesn’t ever go over very well.) My mom and I are often asked when we will make her choose just one guy to be with forever and ever and ever and ever. I can tell you that won’t be happening anytime soon. She’s a teenager and …

Available Until Monday, February 13th, 2017

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