Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Magic of Being Cherokee

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Magic of Being Cherokee

by Jordan Dane

The House of Night series is unique from other vampyre lore in many ways, but when authors P. C. and Kristin Cast add depth to the fictional character of Zoey Redbird by giving her the Native American blood of a Cherokee, that’s where the magic in these novels becomes truly special. Native American culture is used as a springboard for the fictional world depicted in the series. The authors research real Cherokee myths and legends to add color and authenticity, then add creative twists to bring these myths alive on the page. And although the authors have never claimed to be experts on the Cherokee, the strength and depth of the Cherokee Nation shines like a beacon through their young heroine.

Sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird is from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Though Oklahoma is home to a larger-than-average Cherokee population, Zoey’s Cherokee roots still mean she looks different from the other kids at …

Available Until Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

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

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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 Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Monster Recognition for Beginners

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Demigods and Monsters

Monster Recognition for Beginners

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

What would you do if you woke up one morning and found a satyr on your front porch, and he explained that he was going to take you to a special camp for people like you: half-god, half-human?

You might be tempted to laugh, thinking it’s a practical joke. Or maybe you’d think it was great. But if you’ve read the Percy Jackson books, you would also be seriously worried. Being a demigod may sound glamorous, but in Percy’s world, the child of a god can look forward to a life full of hardships and danger. Heroes, whether they are on a quest or just trying to live through the school year, must always stay on their toes and on the lookout for monsters.

Imagine you’re living in Percy’s world: Does that donut store on the corner make a shiver run down your spine? Does the popularity of a certain coffee chain …

Available Until Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

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The Panem Companion

Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

by V. Arrow

Although Mockingjay is easily the least popular of the three Hunger Games series novels, it is not due to any lack of intrigue, excitement, romance, world-building, or character development. Most commonly, this is attributed to the final novel’s lack of continued delineation between “good characters” like Gale and Peeta and “bad characters” such as President Snow. Mockingjay hinges on providing no good guys, bad guys, or morally satisfying conclusions to Panem’s–or Katniss’–story.

This is implicit from very early in the book, when Katniss first arrives in District 13 and learns that, rather than being a small, struggling, ragtag commune, District 13 is a thriving, strict, structured society. The Capitol’s citizens are ignorant of the horror of the Games; the citizens of District 13 know, understand, and purposely ignore the horror of the Games, so long as their lives are not affected. This similarity between ignorant compliance and willful negligence, and what …

Available Until Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A View From the Bench

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Flirtin' with the Monster

A View From the Bench

by Judge John Tatro

I’ve been a judge for fourteen years and I’ve presided over both civil and criminal cases. Since I started, I have seen the number of methamphetamine-related criminal cases rise dramatically. In the beginning, I would see one or two cases a month. Now, there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not dealing with at least one person, typically between eighteen and twenty-five years old, who is addicted to methamphetamine.

As a judge, I have attended many educational seminars dealing with methamphetamine and meth’s extremely addictive qualities. I have learned that meth is so powerful many young people become addicted the very first time they use. I have learned that meth causes damage in the user’s brain that is extremely difficult to repair, and affects the nervous system. People who use meth develop sores all over their bodies. It also causes their teeth to rot or turn black, and sometimes even fall out. Users lose dramatic amounts of weight and become extremely paranoid.

I also learned …

Available Until Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Bent, Shattered, and Mended

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Bent, Shattered, and Mended

by Blythe Woolston

The Hunger Games trilogy gave me bad dreams. Actually, the books provided images, feelings, and ideas that my brain used as ingredients to brew up nightmares about children’s bones floating in a river of red dust and creepy lizard mutts lurking in the storm drain outside my front door. My brain is good at that sort of thing. But dreaming wasn’t the only business my brain was doing while I slept. It was also forming memories. That is why I remember Greasy Sae’s concoction of mouse meat and pig entrails, Prim’s untucked shirt, and, of course, Katniss, the girl on fire.

You probably remember why Katniss called Prim “little duck.” It’s a detail that’s important to the story. But–unless you share my personal fascination with mice and nasty-bad soup–Sae’s recipe isn’t stashed in long-term memory. That’s because every individual has a unique brain in charge of selecting information and forming memories. Depending on our previous experiences, we notice some things and ignore others. In the …

Available Until Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

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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, November 4th, 2015

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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



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, October 28th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: How Panem Came to Be

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The Panem Companion

How Panem Came to Be

by V. Arrow

Although conjectures about geological cataclysm would explain the physical borders–perhaps even the provincial organization–of Panem, its true dystopian horror comes from a cataclysm of a more anthropogenic nature. Panem is post-apocalyptic because of the end of our known world geography, but it is dystopian because of its political, socioeconomic, and cultural collapse and the ways it is dealt with by the Capitol. After all, it isn’t centralized government like the Capitol’s or geographically disparate states that is frightening; it is the operation of the Hunger Games, a system that targets its disenfranchised for death. Although employing the Hunger Games as reparations for civil war is unjust enough, the Games’ enforcement of a society built on institutional classism–and, we can infer from the text, racism–is truly horrifying. (Racism and classism will be discussed in chapters three and four.) Shifting geography alone could not cause this kind of catastrophic change in ideology–so …

Available Until Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Unhomely Places

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Unhomely Places

by Kate Milford

There is the world you know, the world you have always known; and then you blink, and there is a place you never had any inkling of, and it spreads out across your eyescape. And then, most shockingly of all: There is the realization that these two places are one and the same. It turns out you never really knew the world around you at all. This is often the moment at which the adventure begins: Your street has gone feral and has carried your house and all of your neighbors’ homes to another part of your city; your child is a changeling; your wardrobe is a doorway to a pine forest where it is always winter but never Christmas. Or you witness something that could not have happened: a murder, perhaps, in which three kids your own age kill a fourth, none of whom anyone but you can see.

Much …

Available Until Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

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