Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Curious Case of Primrose “Everdeen”

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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, August 3rd, 2016

 Continue Reading “The Curious Case of Primrose “Everdeen””»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Panem et Circenses

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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 Monday, August 1st, 2016

 Continue Reading “Panem et Circenses”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dear Diary . . .

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Dear Diary . . .

by Karen Mahoney

Ah, diaries . . . repositories for our innermost thoughts and most private dreams. In literature throughout the ages, diaries have allowed us to get closer than ever to characters we seek to know better. A sneaky peek at someone’s journal equals a window right into his or her heart and soul; dark secrets are often revealed. We love the confessional aspect–especially, it seems, when it includes teen angst and tales of paranormal love.

But a diary is a written format. Sure, journal entries have been a common storytelling device used in fiction throughout the years, but on TV? How does that translate? Putting aside the original books written by L.J. Smith, how exactly does a TV show like The Vampire Diaries bring a character’s diary successfully to the screen and make it (a) work within the confines of a visual medium and (b) retain relevancy to the ongoing …

Available Until Friday, July 29th, 2016

 Continue Reading “Dear Diary . . .”»

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

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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 Thursday, July 28th, 2016

 Continue Reading “Ladies of the Night, Unite!”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A Special Hero

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Mind-Rain

A Special Hero

by J FitzGerald McCurdy

In fiction, heroes and villains are usually main characters, often in opposition to one another. Heroes are distinguished by their exceptional courage, fortitude, and boldness, while villains are depicted as egregiously wicked, corrupt, or malevolent.

In the Uglies series, Dr. Cable is clearly the villain. Her lust for power and control is right up there with that of our world’s most notorious bad guys, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. And like those historic villains, Cable is a sociopath who will do whatever it takes, even murder, to maintain the status quo, convinced that the end–keeping the population in its cage to protect the world–justifies the means. When Special Circumstances attacks the Smoke at her instruction and kills the Boss, the cantankerous middle-aged ugly who looks after the Smoke’s collection of old Rusty magazines, Cable displays neither regret for her troops’ excessive use of violence nor remorse over the old man’s death. …

Available Until Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

 Continue Reading “A Special Hero”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Women Who Love Vampires Who Eat Women

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Women Who Love Vampires Who Eat Women

by Sarah Rees Brennan

Buffy Summers and Bella Swan. What do they have in common? I know, they have the same initials. Isn’t that weird?

Oh, and they both date vampires.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired in 1997, and Twilight was published in 2005. But in 1991, before these fanged giants appeared on the scene, a series called The Vampire Diaries was already wooing the teen set. And by the teen set, I mean me.

L.J. Smith was my Stephenie Meyer. When I was fourteen, I read The Vampire Diaries and immediately had to read all her other books, too. Vampires with diaries. Vampires fighting the apocalypse. Psychic vampires. You may well ask: what is a psychic vampire? He drank psychic power, I don’t know. What I do know is, he had to kiss her neck to drink her psychic power, and it was awesome. And it wasn’t cheating on her …

Available Until Monday, July 25th, 2016

 Continue Reading “Women Who Love Vampires Who Eat Women”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Gods Among Us

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Demigods and Monsters

The Gods Among Us

by Elizabeth M. Rees

What You Can’t See Might Harm You

Living in New York City, just under two miles from what became Ground Zero, I witnessed the events of 9/11 all too close to home. It was a scene to gladden the war-mongering heart of Ares, the Greek god of war. The smoky, fiery image of the Twin Towers was surely one lifted straight from Hades’ wildest dreams.

Although I am old enough to know Superman is make-believe and that James Bond is just a character in books and film, I actually found myself wondering, “Where are they?” Why didn’t Superman soar onto the scene and snatch a plane in each fist a second before they struck? Why had James Bond’s trademark derring-do failed when his valiant deeds were most crucial?

What a foolish part of me expected was larger-than-life action taken by one of our own pop culture demigods (Clark Kent) or heroes (Bond). What …

Available Until Friday, July 22nd, 2016

 Continue Reading “The Gods Among Us”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: The Panem Companion

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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 Thursday, July 21st, 2016

 Continue Reading “Introduction: The Panem Companion”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The War between the States

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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, July 20th, 2016

 Continue Reading “The War between the States”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

The Girl Who Was on Fire

Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist

by Mary Borsellino

There’s a piece of graffiti on a wall in Palestine. Over the years since it was painted, it’s been photographed by scores of travelers and journalists. It reads:

Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist. Keep fighting. Keep loving.

More than bombs, fire, guns or arrows, love is the most powerful weapon in the Hunger Games. It stirs and feeds the rebellion. It saves the doomed. It destroys the bereaved. And it gives even the most devastated survivors a reason to go on.

“Love” is not synonymous with “passion”. Hatred is also a passionate emotion. When I say “love” here, I mean compassion, loyalty, empathy, and the bonds of friendship, family, and romance. All these things are present in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. So too are greed, selfishness, hatred, and fear. That the protagonists are able to put stock in love, even while given so many reasons to hate, is what gives the Hunger Games a note of hope despite the …

Available Until Thursday, July 14th, 2016

 Continue Reading “Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist”»

Stay Updated

Our Books

  • Latest Free Essays
  • Latest Contests
  • Latest Interviews
  • Latest Excerpts