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, May 31st, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Lies and Consequences

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Mind-Rain

Lies and Consequences

by Delia Sherman

This tape consists of selections from Professor Hayde’s lectures for Lies and Consequences: Propaganda in the Prettytime (Room 46, Level 16). Weeks skipped consisted of class discussions, role-playing exercises, and field trips to the Rusty Museum. Professor Hayde had eighteen students: six ordinary pretties, eight with extreme skin and body surgery, and four naturals who opted to keep their original, unmodified appearance.

Week 1: Carrots and Sticks

Welcome to Lies and Consequences: Propaganda in the Prettytime. If you’re signed up for Professor Tich’s Aesthetics and Body Modifications, it’s two levels down in Room 46, Level 14, and you’d better move fast, because Tich takes a very pre-Rusty attitude toward lateness.

You’ve all been learning world history since you were littlies. And you’re probably here because you’re really curious about what there is to say about the Pre-Rusties and the Rusties and the Pretty-time that you haven’t heard a zillion times before. You …

Available Until Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: By Their Marks You Shall Know Them

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Nyx in the House of Night

By Their Marks You Shall Know Them

by Jana Oliver

What exactly possessed primitive humans to inflict marks on their skin is hard to fathom. Perhaps one of the tribesmen had inadvertently gotten some dirt or ashes in a wound and once it healed, it remained discolored. While sitting around the fire swapping tales, his buddies might have made note of this new thing. With a little experimentation, they realized that if they opened a fresh wound, charred a stick, and buried the black residue inside the slice, the result was a tattoo. Proof that humans are endlessly inventive when they’re bored.

Thousands of years later we have a story about a high school girl who is having a rough day: while Zoey Montgomery is trying to cough her lungs out, her best friend is prattling on about Z’s drunken “almost” boyfriend and a football game. That all becomes irrelevant when Zoey spies the undead guy standing next to …

Available Until Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A Glossary of Ancient Greek Myth

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Demigods and Monsters

A Glossary of Ancient Greek Myth

by Nigel Rodgers

A

Achilles

Son of Peleus and the nymph Thetis. When Achilles was born, Thetis held him by one foot and dipped him into the River Styx in an attempt to make him immortal. She almost succeeded; only the spot on his heel by which she held him while he was immersed remained a point of vulnerability–the origin of the term Achilles’ heel, meaning a weakness. Aside from the spot on his heel, Achilles was completely invincible. When he was older, his father sent him to be raised by Chiron the Centaur on Mount Pelion. He is most famous for being a great warrior and for his participation in the Trojan War. He fought on the side of the Greeks under their leader, Agamemnon, after his best friend, Patroclus, was killed. He slew Prince Hector in battle before he himself was killed by an arrow Paris, the Trojan prince, shot at his heel.

(See …

Available Until Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reality Hunger

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Reality Hunger

by Ned Vizzini

When I was nineteen, slightly older than Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (and worse at archery), I was invited to leave my home and journey to a faraway land to prepare for a new chapter in my life. The faraway land was not the Capitol but Minneapolis, Minnesota. The new chapter was not a pubescent deathmatch–I had just been through that in high school–but a professional arena where every day contestants young and old are ground up and forgotten, driven to alcoholism, and sent back to graduate school. I was going to be a published author. My publisher had decided that I needed “media training.”

I arrived at MSP Airport with scant television experience. In grade school I had been on a Nickelodeon “Big Help” public service ad raking leaves and was given 0.2 seconds of screen time; as an infant I had failed out of auditions for a diaper commercial. (I could still end up in an adult diaper …

Available Until Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Modern-Day Perceval

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

The Modern-Day Perceval

by Joshua Pantalleresco

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

–Christopher Reeve

Heroes are the foundation of epic fantasy. I’ve enjoyed heroic tales ever since I picked up my first comic book at the age of eight. There was something larger than life about someone making a difference that stuck with me. It influenced me to read my first fantasy novel. Fantasy and comics aren’t that different at heart: Both feature great evils bent on destroying all the heroes hold dear, whether it’s something personal like their family or something larger such as their hometown or even the whole world. What fascinates me to this day is how each hero responds to crisis.

There are different kinds of heroes. Some are like Superman or King Arthur and possess all the tools to become a great hero– they have the skills, the …

Available Until Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Inevitable Decline of Decadence

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

The Inevitable Decline of Decadence

by Adrienne Kress

The goal of every culture is to decay through over-civilization; the
factors of decadence–luxury, skepticism, weariness and superstition–are constant. The civilization of one epoch becomes the manure of the
next.

–Cyril Connolly

The Hunger Games trilogy deals with many themes: war, rebellion, the manipulation of media. But it was its concern with societal decadence and its inevitable downfall that made the first book’s release timely. The bestselling YA dystopian series came onto shelves just as the world’s economy took a tumble. For years we’d been living in comfort and excess. Consumerism was rife, and shows like Sex and the City glorified consumption by extolling the virtues of shoes worth hundreds of dollars. Then, suddenly, the party was over, and the world became concerned with trying to save money rather than spend it. Today the idea of wasteful consumption turns our stomachs.

It isn’t as if …

Available Until Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: King Edmund the Cute

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Through the Wardrobe

King Edmund the Cute

by Diana Peterfreund

Let’s get it straight: I wasn’t sitting around writing “Diana Hearts Edmund” in my Trapper Keeper, but I had an enormous crush on Edmund Pevensie when I was a kid. When I admit that to people, then and now, I invariably get a reaction that’s halfway between bemused and appalled. Edmund? they say. Isn’t he the petulant, whiny traitor responsible for Aslan’s death?

Yes, yes he is. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But that’s only the start of Edmund’s adventures in Narnia. He pulls it together by the end of that book and proceeds to rock out for four more. No, Ed doesn’t leave us with the best first impression in all of literature, but he more than makes up for it in the rest of the series.

If anything, his experiences in the first book1 give him a breadth of knowledge and depth of experience and sorrow …

Available Until Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Otherworld Is Greek to Me

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Otherworld Is Greek to Me

by Trinity Faegen

From character names to story elements, P.C. and Kristin Casts’ House of Night series is a treasure trove of allusions to Greek mythology. Nyx’s origins are in Greek myth–she appears in Hesiod’s Theogony, Homer’s Illiad, and other ancient Greek texts. Aphrodite takes her name from the Greek goddess. But the references to Greek myth that fascinate me most are those related to Nyx’s Otherworld. The Casts have taken the ancient Greek’s Underworld and added their own imaginative twist, creating a colorful, intriguing new answer to the eternal question, “Where do we go after we die?” Just like the Underworld in Greek mythology, selective visits to the Otherworld by the living are allowed. Also just like the Underworld, some visitors can never leave. And while the two aren’t identical, there are enough similarities that it’s interesting to compare and contrast.

The uncertainty of the afterlife is universal, a …

Available Until Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

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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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