Free Smart Pop YA Essay: How the Inheritance Cycle Differs from Fantasy Epics in the Past

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

How the Inheritance Cycle Differs from Fantasy Epics in the Past

by Ian Irvine

Late in the twentieth century the world definitively entered the third age of storytelling, and this is changing the way some new authors tell stories, and how young audiences view them. Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle reflects this transition. The first age, oral storytelling, began with tales told around the campfires of hunters and gatherers. It was only after printing became cheap enough that books were widely available and compulsory education ensured most people were literate that the world transitioned to the second age, written storytelling. Written storytelling must have existed since the invention of writing around 5,000 years ago, but only took over as the predominant form when mass-produced books became affordable in the Industrial Revolution. And not everyone was happy about it. Even in Greek and Roman times people complained that writing tales down was ruining the craft of storytelling.

I had the opposite problem. When I first read Homer’s Iliad …

Available Until Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

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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 Wednesday, June 28th, 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 Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Misunderstood

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Nyx in the House of Night

Misunderstood

by Kristin Cast

Zoey Redbird takes a lot of crap for having multiple boyfriends. I’m sure, if she were sitting here next to me, she would be pretty upset about being called a slut, a tramp, a whore, and all of the other negative nouns that are thrown at her. I get tons of messages on Facebook from people who make hurtful comments, and I know that our administrative assistant Camden Clark, who keeps up with our House of Night Facebook, MySpace, and email, constantly has to stand up for Zoey. (I do want to point out that, in earlier novels, the guys in Zoey’s life should have definitely known about each other. The whole not-being-honest thing doesn’t ever go over very well.) My mom and I are often asked when we will make her choose just one guy to be with forever and ever and ever and ever. I can tell you that won’t be happening anytime soon. She’s a teenager and …

Available Until Monday, June 26th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Emotional Pleasures of Reading Twilight

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The Psychology of Twilight

The Emotional Pleasures of Reading Twilight

by Peter Stromberg

The Twilight Saga is, simplified, a tale of the romance and adventures of a young woman and an immortal vampire she meets at school. Readers of the novels do not reject this premise out of hand–“regular old teenage girl falls for ancient vampire”–because by now we are so used to the strange rules of romantic tales that this seems completely plausible. Indeed, a stock convention of the contemporary romance novel is the dark, mysterious, and potentially dangerous male (and in fact vampires and romance have gone together like burgers and fries since the nineteenth century1). The potentially dangerous, inappropriate male character provides one of the essential ingredients of the formula: romantic stories require a seemingly insuperable barrier to the couple’s desire for union. The actual romance is generated by the description of the couple’s burning desire for one another, not tales of their enjoyable companionship walking the dog and picking …

Available Until Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

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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 Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

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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, June 14th, 2017

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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 Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A Special Hero

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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 Monday, June 12th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Tall, Dark, and...Thirsty?

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A New Dawn

Tall, Dark, and...Thirsty?

by Ellen Steiber

As Stephenie Meyer tells us, stories of vampires have been around for centuries and have appeared in almost every culture. Although it’s hard to make definitive statements about vampires, their history, or their lore, I think it’s safe to say that vampires were not originally conceived of as romantic heroes. They were threatening and tremendously creepy, monsters who caused fear and revulsion. They were a far cry from Meyer’s Cullen family, a clan of the undead who are so dazzlingly beautiful and good that when Bella seeks to give up her own mortality to join them, this reader’s first reaction was: You go, girl! Admittedly, that’s an oversimplification. Bella’s decision is complex, and Meyer provides all sorts of interesting conflicts and potential consequences. Still, the fact that Meyer makes the vampires and their lifestyle so alluring intrigued me. I couldn’t help wondering how vampires changed from revolting parasites to …

Available Until Thursday, June 8th, 2017

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