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

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

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, July 15th, 2015

 Continue Reading “When Laws Are Made to Be Broken”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Greek Hero–New and Improved!

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

Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

The Greek Hero–New and Improved!

by Hilari Bell

Essay excerpt to come!

Available Until Monday, July 13th, 2015

 Continue Reading “The Greek Hero–New and Improved!”»

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 8th, 2015

 Continue Reading “A Special Hero”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Missing the Point

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

Through the Wardrobe

Missing the Point

by Sarah Beth Durst

Remember Bambi? Cute deer. Cute bunny. Cute skunk. Very scary forest fire. Very traumatic death of Bambi’s mother. . . . Yeah, I don’t actually remember that last part. Seriously, when I saw Bambi, I didn’t realize that his mother died. I thought that Bambi’s parents were simply divorced and now it was time for his dad to have custody. Later, I was the kid in high school English who argued that Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” wasn’t about suicide. I thought it was a very nice poem about a pretty New England forest like the one behind my house, which was quite lovely, dark, and deep. So as you might imagine, I was also the kid who totally missed all the religious symbolism in the Narnia books.

But I still loved the books.

Why? Why do these books hold such sway over the hearts and imagination of …

Available Until Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

 Continue Reading “Missing the Point”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: To Bite, or Not to Bite; That is the Question

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

A New Dawn

To Bite, or Not to Bite; That is the Question

by Janette Rallison

What’s your definition of a bad day? A fight with a friend? A speeding ticket? How about being attacked by a vampire and painfully turned into the undead, then realizing you must wander for eternity fighting off a craving to kill people? Yeah, that would pretty much be a bad day.

Carlisle, the leader of the Cullen clan of vampires had this bad day and (we can assume) many other bad days that followed. Stephenie Meyer doesn’t skimp when dishing out problems for her characters. Seriously, if you were Cinderella and could choose someone to be your fairy godmother, you wouldn’t want it to be Stephenie Meyer. Sure, she could come up with the ultimate Prince Charming to take you to the ball, but he might kill you afterward.

Anyway, this particular bad day of Carlisle’s, when he was attacked and transformed into a vampire, started the ball rolling for the Twilight …

Available Until Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

 Continue Reading “To Bite, or Not to Bite; That is the Question”»

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

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

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 Friday, May 22nd, 2015

 Continue Reading “The Good Girl Always Goes for the Bad Boy”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: She Is Goddess

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

Nyx in the House of Night

She Is Goddess

by Yasmine Galenorn

She is Goddess. She is the moon overhead, full and ripe in the sky. She is
the ground under our feet, pungent and ripe with promise. She is the huntress
in the woods, fleet of foot, and the washerwoman at the stream, washing
bloody garments predicting deaths to come. She wears a triple face: Maiden,
Mother, Crone. She is gigantic–the 24,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf,
and she is lithe–Eos, the goddess of dawn. She is Kali, she is Artemis and
Athena and the Morrigan. As Gaia, the planet, she provides the sustenance
that keeps us alive. As Hel, she walks us into the Underworld at our death.
Eternal and cyclic, she is Goddess, the primal source of life and death.

Throughout history, the divine feminine has been worshiped and loved,
reviled and vilified, adored and feared. She has been exalted, and …

Available Until Monday, April 13th, 2015

 Continue Reading “She Is Goddess”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Smoke and Mirrors

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

The Girl Who Was on Fire

Smoke and Mirrors

by Elizabeth M. Rees

smoke and mirrors: cover-up; something that is intended to draw attention away from something else that somebody would prefer remain unnoticed

–Encarta World English Dictionary

smoke and mirrors: irrelevant or misleading information serving to obscure the truth of a situation

–Collins English Dictionary

When I was a kid my favorite game was “Let’s Pretend.” Every child plays one version or another. You create a world for a day, or an afternoon, complete with rules, with adventures, with tragedies and silly happenings, everything from tea parties to out-and-out galactic warfare. But then your mom calls you in for dinner, or to do chores or homework, and game time ends. Poof! The pretend world evaporates into thin air, never to exist in exactly the same way again.

But what if it never vanished? What if all that pretense, that make-believe, wasn’t imaginary at all? What if your whole world, day-in and day-out, was made up of pretense, lies, and deceit? What if your life or your death …

Available Until Friday, April 10th, 2015

 Continue Reading “Smoke and Mirrors”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Night in the House of Good and Evil

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

Nyx in the House of Night

Night in the House of Good and Evil

by Karen Mahoney
There also stands the gloomy house of Night;
ghastly clouds shroud it in darkness.
Before it Atlas stands erect and on his head
and unwearying arms firmly supports the broad sky,
where Night and Day cross a bronze threshold
and then come close and greet each other.


So begins the House of Night series, with a quotation taken from Hesiod’s Theogony. From the very beginning, the reader of P.C. and Kristin Cast’s popular series is clued into the fact that Nyx–who is known as Night personified both in the books and in our world’s mythology–is at the very center of events. It all comes back to her, as we see time and time again throughout the series.

Nyx, Greek goddess of night, is traditionally known as a primordial god, one of the creators of the world. Before there could be Night–and, therefore, also Day–there …

Available Until Monday, April 6th, 2015

 Continue Reading “Night in the House of Good and Evil”»

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, March 30th, 2015

 Continue Reading “Panem et Circenses”»

Stay Updated

Our Books

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