Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Missing the Point

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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 Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

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

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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

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: She Is Goddess

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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 …

Available Until Monday, April 13th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Smoke and Mirrors

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The Girl Who Was on Fire - Movie Edition

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

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

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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

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Panem et Circenses

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The Girl Who Was on Fire - Movie Edition

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

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Don't Be Fooled by that Noble Chin: Stefan Sucks

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Don't Be Fooled by that Noble Chin: Stefan Sucks

by Kiersten White

Ah, Stefan Salvatore. That hair! That jaw! Those soulful green eyes that spend absurd amounts of time per episode directing agonized and/or lustful looks toward the object of his love and obsession! He keeps a journal, he broods, he sheds manly tears, he (generally) doesn’t drink human blood. He is a paragon of vampire virtue and a shining example of what a boyfriend should be.

Except, not so much. And I’m not talking about how, when force-fed human blood, he went all crazy-junkie on us for a few episodes. That I can forgive. He’s a vampire, after all, and he can’t help being drawn to blood. No, it’s the rest of the time that Stefan creeps me out. Forget lovely murderous sociopath Damon—it’s Stefan who is the true villain of Mystic Falls. He uses guilt as a tool for manipulation (of himself and others) and, more dangerously, as an excuse to …

Available Until Friday, March 20th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Community in the Face of Tyranny

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The Girl Who Was on Fire - Movie Edition

Community in the Face of Tyranny

by Bree Despain

Being a tyrant is easy, really. All you have to do is take away people’s freedom. Many people in today’s society take certain liberties for granted: freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, free commerce, free press, and more simple freedoms such as travel and easy communication—all things that make a community strong and viable. But what if in one swift movement all of these liberties were taken away? That’s what the Capitol did to the districts of Panem. After the first unsuccessful rebellion of the districts against the Capitol seventy-five years ago, the Capitol retaliated by taking every measure it could to destroy the feeling of community within the districts and between the districts, controlling and isolating people in order to keep them from rebelling again. The most literal meaning of community is “to give among each other.” Essentially, to share something amongst a group—whether that’s information (communication), goods, common …

Available Until Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Broken

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The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Broken

by Joshua L. Gowin

Violence in the Blood

Most women have a few standard deflections to cut the conversation short when they receive unwanted attention from a male suitor at a bar. They may mention that they have a boyfriend, or perhaps they’ll employ a friend to come to their rescue. After an evening of come-ons from Chris MacAllen at a hotel bar in Grenada, Lisbeth Salander pushes her pursuer into a swimming pool. A few weeks earlier, when she’s had enough of a local’s antics at a bar in Saint Lucia, she knocks him over the head with a brick, pays her tab, and then skips town. Clearly, Salander is not most women. She’s not like most anyone.

You might expect that kind of violence from a sociopath—someone without regard for the suffering of others—such as Alexander Zalachenko, Lisbeth’s father, or Ronald Niedermann, her half brother. Zalachenko regularly beat Lisbeth’s mother, Agneta, while Lisbeth was …

Available Until Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Crime of Fashion

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The Girl Who Was on Fire - Movie Edition

Crime of Fashion

by Terri Clark

Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and
they remember the woman.

—Coco Chanel

By its very definition, “fashion statement” means our clothes speak for us. When a person thinks of that phrase, they are most likely to picture someone whose conscientious choice of attire stands out and evokes a strong response. Right now, Lady Gaga is the poster child for making provocative fashion statements. Who else would don a raw meat dress designed by Franc Fernandez and say it was in protest of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy? Yet, if she yanked on a pair of tattered sweats and a Hanes t-shirt among friends in the privacy of her own home, that too would articulate something about her. Because even when we’re not trying to draw focus to ourselves, what we choose to wear still makes a statement.

Our clothing tells other people who we are, whether we value comfort over frivolity, brand names over money-saving …

Available Until Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

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