Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Unhomely Places

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Unhomely Places

by Kate Milford

There is the world you know, the world you have always known; and then you blink, and there is a place you never had any inkling of, and it spreads out across your eyescape. And then, most shockingly of all: There is the realization that these two places are one and the same. It turns out you never really knew the world around you at all. This is often the moment at which the adventure begins: Your street has gone feral and has carried your house and all of your neighbors’ homes to another part of your city; your child is a changeling; your wardrobe is a doorway to a pine forest where it is always winter but never Christmas. Or you witness something that could not have happened: a murder, perhaps, in which three kids your own age kill a fourth, none of whom anyone but you can see.

Much …

Available Until Friday, August 4th, 2017

 Continue Reading “Unhomely Places”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Role Models

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Flirtin' with the Monster

Role Models

by Niki Burnham

I write books about teenagers, primarily for teenagers (though teen-savvy adults read them, too). Some of the books have stylized cartoon covers, tipping off the reader that what’s on the pages is comedy. Despite that, over the years I’ve received many letters from concerned parents, questioning whether or not my books are appropriately shelved. They cite the fact that some of the characters use foul language, that one character has a gay mother, or that one character smokes (ignoring the fact that she quits) in support of their argument that my writing is a “bad influence” on teen readers. I’m often taken to task for not living up to my “responsibility” as an author to provide teenagers with good role models.

While I understand their concerns, I believe that attempting to limit teens’ reading to “good role models” is the wrong way to go about educating teens about the world in which we all live.

When sitting down to craft a story, an author’s primary responsibility …

Available Until Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

 Continue Reading “Role Models”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: More Than Just a Broken Line

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Flirtin' with the Monster

More Than Just a Broken Line

by Susan Hart Lindquist

These days, when talking about why a book “works” one can’t simply take into account the compelling story or the beauty of the writing. Today, part of what makes a book work is its ability to connect with an audience. To become a bestseller. To stay in print.

For some authors, this has turned the game of publishing into a psychological tug of war between the desire to remain true to one’s creative vision and the need to consider what it takes to publish and, in turn, connect with readers. Do I want to write “for me” or must I write “for them”? How can I choose? How can I do both? If I write “for them” will I be selling
out? 
It’s a conundrum to be sure, and I confess, at times

I’ve been torn by these questions. Perhaps that’s why I was skeptical when Ellen first told me about the young adult novel she was writing. “It’s about my daughter’s …

Available Until Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

 Continue Reading “More Than Just a Broken Line”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Cruithne Mythology and the House of Night

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Nyx in the House of Night

Cruithne Mythology and the House of Night

by P. C. Cast

First, let me explain why I use the term “Cruithne” and not “Celtic” when I speak of Scottish and Irish Clansfolk.

It may surprise readers to find out that the word most used to describe the culture and people of northwestern Europe, Celtic or Celt, is a modern word that only came into popular usage in the last century. The word comes from a Latin description of a small Spanish tribe that Roman scribes and historians used to create myths about a fictional race they called the Celts. These myths were so successful that, in today’s world, it’s now generally believed that the Celts were every bit as real as the Romans, when in truth a “Celtic race” only existed in fiction.

The Scots and Irish Gaelic culture we associate with the term today, though, is very real. It just has no connection to those original Roman myths. After the Second World War, with the movement of peoples around Europe, …

Available Until Friday, July 28th, 2017

 Continue Reading “Cruithne Mythology and the House of Night”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Edward, Heathcliff, and Our Other Secret Boyfriends

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

A New Dawn

Edward, Heathcliff, and Our Other Secret Boyfriends

by Robin Brande

We all have our ideal, swoon-worthy romantic heroes: Aragorn in Lord of the Rings (sigh), Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack Shepherd on Lost, Justin Timberlake in “SexyBack”–whatever. But in her Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer has handed us the dreamiest of lovers, so beyond our regular fantasies we’re even willing to give up body heat in exchange for sleeping against the cold marble chest of that most perfect of formerly human men, Edward Cullen–giving hope at last to hundreds of men huddled in Antarctica with no sweeties to call their own. (Sorry, guys, but Edward means much more to us than chilly skin. Read on.)

In constructing her ideal mate, and giving him all the qualities a fifteen-year-old (okay, and older) girl needs in a romantic partner, Stephenie Meyer borrows some of the characteristics of other great lovers in literature. She drops hints throughout the series of who those …

Available Until Thursday, July 27th, 2017

 Continue Reading “Edward, Heathcliff, and Our Other Secret Boyfriends”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Immortality and Its Discontents

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Immortality and Its Discontents

by Kelly Link

Holly: When we sat down to talk about this essay, it happened to be in a room where Cassandra Clare was hard at work on her next book. We thought we would just have the conversation in front of her and see if she wanted to pitch in.

Kelly: It seemed appropriate, since this is often the way that the three of us work: Everyone doing their own writing, and stopping when necessary to discuss a plot point or read what someone else is working on and make suggestions.

So. Why do young adults (and for young adults, let’s go ahead and make it all readers) like books, like Cassandra Clare’s, about immortal beings like vampires and faeries?

Holly: Well, I remember as a teenager being constantly told that I was going to change. That every time I dyed my hair blue or declared my love for a particular band …

Available Until Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

 Continue Reading “Immortality and Its Discontents”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Percy, I am Your Father

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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 Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

 Continue Reading “Percy, I am Your Father”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The War of Light and Darkness

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Through the Wardrobe

The War of Light and Darkness

by Herbie Brennan

The Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-book tale of good versus evil–the age-old war of Light and Darkness. It’s a story you’ll also find in the Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, and many other fantasy novels–a heady brew of myth and magic, brave heroes, dark villains, mystic artifacts, and occult powers.

But that’s all just fiction–right? You’d never get black magicians, mystic artifacts, and occult powers in the real world, would you?

Well . . .

The author of the Narnia chronicles, Clive Staples Lewis, fought in the First World War. He joined the British Army in 1917, and was commissioned an officer in the third Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. He fought at the Somme and was subsequently wounded during the Battle of Arras.

He was forty years old when the Second World War broke out, a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. Just four years after the war ended, …

Available Until Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

 Continue Reading “The War of Light and Darkness”»

Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Monster Recognition for Beginners

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

Demigods and Monsters

Monster Recognition for Beginners

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

What would you do if you woke up one morning and found a satyr on your front porch, and he explained that he was going to take you to a special camp for people like you: half-god, half-human?

You might be tempted to laugh, thinking it’s a practical joke. Or maybe you’d think it was great. But if you’ve read the Percy Jackson books, you would also be seriously worried. Being a demigod may sound glamorous, but in Percy’s world, the child of a god can look forward to a life full of hardships and danger. Heroes, whether they are on a quest or just trying to live through the school year, must always stay on their toes and on the lookout for monsters.

Imagine you’re living in Percy’s world: Does that donut store on the corner make a shiver run down your spine? Does the popularity of a certain coffee chain …

Available Until Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

 Continue Reading “Monster Recognition for Beginners”»

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

Read this week’s free YA essay on Smartpopbooks.com:

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

 Continue Reading “How the Inheritance Cycle Differs from Fantasy Epics in the Past”»

Stay Updated

Our Books

  • Latest Free Essays
  • Latest Contests
  • Latest Interviews
  • Latest Excerpts