Free Smart Pop YA Essay: As Time Goes By

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A New Dawn

As Time Goes By

by K. A. Nuzum

As New Moon opens on the morning of her eighteenth birthday, Bella is dreaming of her grandmother–her dear, old, wrinkled grandmother. Edward–beautiful, youthful Edward–saunters into the scene, and Bella is faced with having to tell her grandmother she loves a vampire–and she thinks that’s the disturbing part of the dream. But suddenly, Bella realizes:

There was no Gran.
That was me. Me in a mirror. Me–ancient,
creased, and withered.
Edward stood beside me, casting no reflection,
excruciatingly lovely and forever seventeen.

Tick Tock

Forever seventeen. Two simple words, and yet they provide three books’ worth of heartache for Bella and Edward. By the end of Breaking Dawn we know that everything turns out swell for the two (now three, counting Renesmee), but while Bella is still human, growing up and growing old are major concerns for her. After all, as New Moon opens, year eighteen is …

Available Until Friday, December 9th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

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Through the Wardrobe

Forgotten Castles and Magical Creatures in Hiding

by Brent Hartinger

A wild forest grew across the street from the house in the suburbs where I grew up. Technically, it was merely a “holding basin”–a patch of land that city engineers had set aside from development to hold back the floodwaters that occasionally swelled up from the little creek that ran through the neighborhood. But it was dense and untamed; much of it was swampland, which made it inaccessible to all but those with a strong sense of adventure, not to mention hip-boots.

As a boy, my friends and I spent almost every waking hour in that forest, and slowly but surely it surrendered its secrets: a broken well, a decaying shack left by homesteaders, part of an abandoned railroad track said to have been laid over an old Indian trail. Once, while walking through dense thicket in the fall, my friends and I noticed that many of the trees were suddenly …

Available Until Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: My Dragon, Myself

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

My Dragon, Myself

by Kelly McClymer

Confession time: I love dragons, and have since the first time I heard of the mythical creatures who liked to kidnap princesses and test the princes who would rescue them. Only the best, bravest, smartest–smartest was always the key–could beat the evil, ravening, blazing beasts and free the princess. This appealed to me, maybe because I loved to doodle and the only recognizable thing I could doodle was a princess: billowing triangulation for a base, round head with long flowing hair, stick arms, and a pair of slippers peeping out under the skirt. Easy peasy. I must have doodled a million princesses in my time in school. Occasionally I’d try a dragon (theoretically a snake with scales and wings, right?). But my artistic talent was limited, so I always went back to princesses.

I can’t remember when I first learned about dragons, but I recall they were all vicious, cranky creatures …

Available Until Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A New Eve

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Navigating the Golden Compass

A New Eve

by Dave Hodgson

Alongside the adventures, the love story, the battles and the fantasy, His Dark Materials holds a crucial prophecy: Lyra is to become the new Eve. This Eve’s purpose is not made fully clear, except that she should restore the Dust and begin to build a “Republic of Heaven.” But how will the members of this new republic behave? Like the previous regent of heaven who kept his predecessor alive in a box and those who endeavoured to destroy Dust, calling it “sin”? Clearly not. In fiction it’s easy to delineate between good and evil. At the end of The Amber Spyglass we’re left with the confidence that if Lyra succeeds she will begin a new direction for Homo sapiens: a new lifestyle that better values biodiversity, that harvests resources more sustainably and that acts unselfishly for the benefit of others.

With these optimistic thoughts we can all retire to our normal …

Available Until Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

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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 Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Two Princes

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Mind-Rain

Two Princes

by Sarah Beth Durst

“How lucky is that?” Tally muttered to herself. “Sleeping Beauty with two princes. What was she supposed to do? Choose between David and Zane?”

–Pretties

David or Zane?

Who would you choose?

Who should Tally have chosen?

I think that one of the most awesome things about Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series is that it’s not obvious which guy is best for Tally. Okay, yeah, in the end, Tally’s best choice is the not-dead guy, but ignoring that tiny detail. . . . Both are decent guys. Both care about her, and she cares about both of them. And they like each other. It’s a true love triangle. Seriously bubbly.

But one of them must be her true Prince Charming, right? So which one? I have been giving this a lot of thought, and I’ve decided that the best way to judge them is to subject them both to the indignities of a boyfriend quiz, …

Available Until Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Elements of Life

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Elements of Life

by Bryan Lankford

Good evening! It’s good to see this many humans who are interested in vampyre culture. As it has been many years since I’ve spoken to a group this large who were not vampyres, I beg your indulgence if I misspeak somewhere along the line. Tonight we are going to be discussing rituals and the elements as they are used in vampyre worship.

Many of you have read about vampyre rituals in Zoey’s chronicles, but it may surprise you to know that our form of worship is not confined exclusively to the vampyre community. There are in fact many human groups who think and worship in a very similar fashion to vampyres. Human groups such as Wiccans, Pagans, Shamans, and witches all over the earth live and worship in a manner similar to us. They do not all worship our Goddess Nyx, nor do they use blood in ritual, but …

Available Until Thursday, November 10th, 2016

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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 Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

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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 …

Available Until Friday, November 4th, 2016

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

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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, November 2nd, 2016

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