Free Smart Pop YA Essay: It's All in the Family

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The Psychology of Twilight

It's All in the Family

by Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr., Ph.D.

Most people view their family as the most important thing in their life. Common aphorisms such as “know your roots” and “blood is thicker than water” emphasize the foundational nature of family and the continuing role it plays in our lives. Why is family so key in our lives? The world-renowned family therapist Salvador Minuchin, whose work has largely focused on the overall structure and function of family, wrote in his book Families and Family Therapy: “In all cultures, the family imprints its members with selfhood. Human experience of identity has two elements; a sense of belonging and a sense of being separate. The laboratory in which these ingredients are mixed and dispensed is the family, the matrix of identity.”

The Twilight Saga chronicles Bella’s and Edward’s struggles to find both a sense of belonging and a sense of individual identity as they navigate their way through adolescence and into adulthood, …

Available Until Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: O, To Be in Oxford

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Navigating the Golden Compass

O, To Be in Oxford

by Richard Harland

I want to ride through the night on an armored polar bear! I want to cut holes in the air and step through into other worlds! I want to fly in an airship over the Arctic snow! But most of all, I want to live like Lyra as a kid in her alternative Oxford!

What a life! Running on the rooftops, spitting plumstones onto the heads of passersby, engaging in alliances and wars, pelting the enemy with clods of earth! Or exploring underground cellars, drinking forbidden wine! Best of all–no parents!

Let’s face it. What’s the worst thing about being a kid in this non-alternative present-day reality of ours? It’s the way parents and adults want to involve themselves in your life, right? It’s the surveillance. Loving surveillance, caring surveillance–but still surveillance. Someone is always worrying themselves sick over you. If it’s not parents, it’s all the other adults. Medical specialists …

Available Until Friday, February 12th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Science, Technology and the Danger of Daemons

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Navigating the Golden Compass

Science, Technology and the Danger of Daemons

by Arthur B. Markman

I read Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy aloud to one of my sons when he was about nine. Needless to say, he loved it. When I told him that I was going to write an essay about the books, he asked me to say that the d¦mons in Lyra’s world are really the people’s consciences. I am a cognitive psychologist who studies the way people think, and so his suggestion was not totally off-base–though it also was not exactly what I wanted to write about.

What really interests me about the books is Pullman’s cautionary view of the pursuit of knowledge and the advance of technology. He does not display any particular love of academics with their elite institutions. He is particularly skeptical of technological advances arising from this knowledge, which can lead to disastrous outcomes both intended and unintended.

So, at first, it seemed that I would have to disappoint my …

Available Until Thursday, February 11th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Brotherly Love

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Brotherly Love

by Kendare Blake

There’s a reason that stories end at Happily Ever After. Happy couples are boring. Bo-ring. It’s all kissy faces and “honey-bear this” and “snuggle-pie that.” It’s sweet, and deep, and meaningful. And it makes us want to close the book. As readers, we’re drawn in by the struggle, by the drama, by the desires of the characters. There are few things in literature more enthralling to read than the tale of two people who yearn to be together. The great love stories tell us that to be truly engaging, couples should yearn against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The more a couple has to overcome, the more forbidden the romance, the more we root for them. The young lovers of Romeo and Juliet defied a family feud and married in secret. Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar fought against societal constraints and shame in Brokeback Mountain. Lancelot and Guinevere overcame the constraints …

Available Until Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Politics of Mockingjay

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

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, February 5th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Would You Want to Be One of Artemis's Hunters?

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Demigods and Monsters

Would You Want to Be One of Artemis's Hunters?

by Carolyn MacCullough

If given the option of eternal youth, my guess is that nine out of ten women would take it. After all, Oil of Olay, Revlon, and Lanc´me, among others, have spent millions of dollars in ad campaigns trying to convince us that we can purchase it in just one small bottle. As a society, we practically fetishize youth, craving that unlined skin and endless exuberance and effervescent energy that just seems to ooze from the pores of the very young. Most women strive to preserveyouth in even the smallest of ways, no matter how many times we steel ourselves to the idea of aging gracefully.

So what if someone made you an offer you thought you couldn’t refuse? An offer that seemed too good to be true (as most offers like this are)? What if Artemis herself, Greek goddess extraordinaire (also known as Diana if you happen to be Roman), mistress …

Available Until Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Someone to Watch Over Me

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Someone to Watch Over Me

by Lili Wilkinson

It must be very fragile, if a handful of berries can bring it down.
-Katniss Everdeen, Catching Fire
A few hundred years ago, if you did something wrong you were physically punished–beaten or even hanged, usually in front of a crowd. The whole point of this was to warn the people watching–if you do something bad, this could happen to you. Except it didn’t quite work. Because if you’re watching a starving thirteen-year-old girl being flogged for stealing a loaf of bread, you’re not thinking about what a terrible person she is, and how you’d better not ever do anything like that. You’re thinking, That poor girl. She only wanted something to eat. And the people who are doing the punishing don’t want you to feel sorry for her.

So in the nineteenth century things changed. Instead of physically hurting criminals, we started to put them in prison. And the thing about prison is, you’re always being …

Available Until Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

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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, January 27th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Smoke and Mirrors

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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 Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Behind the House of Night Names

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Nyx in the House of Night

Behind the House of Night Names

by

What’s in a name? Well, after reading how P.C. Cast discovered and wove the
Cruithne myths into her tales, you now know that much time and research has
gone into creating the intricate plotlines of the House of Night novels. The
same is true for the names of the characters.

Below is an appendix of the more intriguing names in the series. You won’t
find everyone’s here; with some names, like Heath Luck or Erik Night, what
you see is what you get. But for others, we’ve untangled the historical, mythological,
and pop culture ties–intentional and incidental–that give these
characters’ monikers a little extra magic.

 

The Fledglings

Zoey Redbird

Zoey (Greek) life; Redbird in Cherokee myth, the Redbird is the

daughter of the Sun

In the House of Night . . .

 

During their first meeting in Marked, Nyx calls Zoey u-s-ti Do-tsu-wa, or “little
Redbird.” Redbird is also the last name …

Available Until Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

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