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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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

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Nyx in the House of Night

Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

by P. C. Cast

Even before I hit national bestseller lists, the two questions readers asked me more than any other were: 1) Where do you get your ideas? And 2) How much research do you do?

Okay, the two answers go hand in hand. Research has always been the foundation of my ideas. I actually enjoy researching, and I like doing it old style— paging through giant history and humanities textbooks in a musty research section of a library. As I go through tomes on history and sociology and mythology, my mind starts creating stories and pictures: changing, shifting, modernizing, rewriting. This process has always seemed totally normal to me. Ancient mythological tragedy? Bah! Everyone dies tragically with no happily ever after in history? No way! For as long as I can remember I’ve revised mythology, created worlds based on history, and then made the stories read the way I wanted them to read—quite …

Available Until Friday, November 28th, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?

by Ellen Steiber

Could there be a more bizarre choice for director of Camp Half-Blood than Dionysus?

Rick Riordan has a gift for playing with the Greek myths. He delights in taking the gods and their stories and giving them just enough of a twist to make them completely believable in our world while still retaining the essence of the ancient beliefs. His Dionysus, more safely referred to as Mr. D (names are, after all, powerfulthings), takes the image of the Greek god of wine and revelry and twists it into a believable contemporary portrait: If you spent most of your time drinking and partying like Mr. D, there’s a good chance that by the time you reached middle age, you too would be overweight, badly dressed, and not care a fig about anything except when you could get your next drink. You certainly wouldn’t be thrilled by having a bunch of “brats” foisted …

Available Until Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

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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, October 22nd, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dear Diary . . .

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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 Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Thing About Elves Is...

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

The Thing About Elves Is...

by Gail Sidonie Sobat

Well, they’re a slippery lot. Hard to pin down. The wee folk. The little people. Fairies. Or is that faeries? Or brownies? Or pixies? Pan or Puck? Sylphs or dryads or nymphs? Goblins or hobgoblins or gremlins or gnomes? Leprechauns or imps or sprites?

Enough to set the mind reeling!

So to begin at the beginning, sort of: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, elf is an Old English word (sometimes spelled ylf/ielf/aelf/alf) which denotes “a class of supernatural beings, believed to be of dwarfish form, and to possess magical powers, which they exercised either to the help or the hurt of mankind. Now a mere synonym of fairy. Sometimes distinguished from fairies a) as a subject species; b) as more malignant.”

But how did these creatures of the stuffy Oxford morph into the vibrant Arya and Islanzadí and Oromis and those other elves who people (er . . . elfize?) Paolini’s Inheritance …

Available Until Friday, October 10th, 2014

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