Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

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Nyx in the House of Night

Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

by P. C. Cast

Even before I hit national bestseller lists, the two questions readers asked me more than any other were: 1) Where do you get your ideas? And 2) How much research do you do?

Okay, the two answers go hand in hand. Research has always been the foundation of my ideas. I actually enjoy researching, and I like doing it old style— paging through giant history and humanities textbooks in a musty research section of a library. As I go through tomes on history and sociology and mythology, my mind starts creating stories and pictures: changing, shifting, modernizing, rewriting. This process has always seemed totally normal to me. Ancient mythological tragedy? Bah! Everyone dies tragically with no happily ever after in history? No way! For as long as I can remember I’ve revised mythology, created worlds based on history, and then made the stories read the way I wanted them to read—quite …

Available Until Friday, November 28th, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp?

by Ellen Steiber

Could there be a more bizarre choice for director of Camp Half-Blood than Dionysus?

Rick Riordan has a gift for playing with the Greek myths. He delights in taking the gods and their stories and giving them just enough of a twist to make them completely believable in our world while still retaining the essence of the ancient beliefs. His Dionysus, more safely referred to as Mr. D (names are, after all, powerfulthings), takes the image of the Greek god of wine and revelry and twists it into a believable contemporary portrait: If you spent most of your time drinking and partying like Mr. D, there’s a good chance that by the time you reached middle age, you too would be overweight, badly dressed, and not care a fig about anything except when you could get your next drink. You certainly wouldn’t be thrilled by having a bunch of “brats” foisted …

Available Until Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Show Me, Don't Tell Me

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Navigating the Golden Compass

Show Me, Don't Tell Me

by Daniel P. Moloney

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is obviously indebted to the Christian story and derives much of its form from it. But rather than trying to write a modern Christian allegory in the fashion of C. S. Lewis, Pullman attempted to write an anti-Christian allegory based on a revisionist interpretation of Paradise Lost in which Satan is the hero. Pullman has made no secret that he intends his story to be offensive to Christians, and in this he succeeds (after all, to offend, it is sufficient to communicate one’s desire to offend). But, his scorn for the Church aside, the religion to which Pullman’s novel is opposed is such a caricature of real Christianity that most Christians would join him in rejecting it. At his best, his storytelling even advances Christian themes and values.

Pullman’s best is very good, and not offensive to Christians. It’s when he tries to propose anti-Christian …

Available Until Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dear Diary . . .

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Dear Diary . . .

by Karen Mahoney

Ah, diaries . . . repositories for our innermost thoughts and most private dreams. In literature throughout the ages, diaries have allowed us to get closer than ever to characters we seek to know better. A sneaky peek at someone’s journal equals a window right into his or her heart and soul; dark secrets are often revealed. We love the confessional aspect—especially, it seems, when it includes teen angst and tales of paranormal love.

But a diary is a written format. Sure, journal entries have been a common storytelling device used in fiction throughout the years, but on TV? How does that translate? Putting aside the original books written by L.J. Smith, how exactly does a TV show like The Vampire Diaries bring a character’s diary successfully to the screen and make it (a) work within the confines of a visual medium and (b) retain relevancy to the ongoing …

Available Until Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Thing About Elves Is...

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

The Thing About Elves Is...

by Gail Sidonie Sobat

Well, they’re a slippery lot. Hard to pin down. The wee folk. The little people. Fairies. Or is that faeries? Or brownies? Or pixies? Pan or Puck? Sylphs or dryads or nymphs? Goblins or hobgoblins or gremlins or gnomes? Leprechauns or imps or sprites?

Enough to set the mind reeling!

So to begin at the beginning, sort of: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, elf is an Old English word (sometimes spelled ylf/ielf/aelf/alf) which denotes “a class of supernatural beings, believed to be of dwarfish form, and to possess magical powers, which they exercised either to the help or the hurt of mankind. Now a mere synonym of fairy. Sometimes distinguished from fairies a) as a subject species; b) as more malignant.”

But how did these creatures of the stuffy Oxford morph into the vibrant Arya and Islanzadí and Oromis and those other elves who people (er . . . elfize?) Paolini’s Inheritance …

Available Until Friday, October 10th, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: King Edmund the Cute

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Through the Wardrobe

King Edmund the Cute

by Diana Peterfreund

Let’s get it straight: I wasn’t sitting around writing “Diana Hearts Edmund” in my Trapper Keeper, but I had an enormous crush on Edmund Pevensie when I was a kid. When I admit that to people, then and now, I invariably get a reaction that’s halfway between bemused and appalled. Edmund? they say. Isn’t he the petulant, whiny traitor responsible for Aslan’s death?

Yes, yes he is. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But that’s only the start of Edmund’s adventures in Narnia. He pulls it together by the end of that book and proceeds to rock out for four more. No, Ed doesn’t leave us with the best first impression in all of literature, but he more than makes up for it in the rest of the series.

If anything, his experiences in the first book1 give him a breadth of knowledge and depth of experience and sorrow …

Available Until Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Why Do So Many Monsters Go Into Retail?

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

Why Do So Many Monsters Go Into Retail?

by Cameron Dokey

It’s not easy being a young demigod.

Just ask Percy Jackson. He can tell you.

Always assuming he has time to catch his breath between pursuing a quest or being pursued by the forces of evil hot on his trail, sometimes literally breathing down his neck right behind him.

In Shakespeare, there’s a stage direction that reads: Exit, pursued by a bear. (I am not either making this up. You can look it up for yourself if you want to. It’s in The Winter’s Tale, Act III, scene 3. And you thought Shakespeare was just some stuffy dead guy.)

But my point, and I do have one, is that the character in Shakespeare had it lucky. At least he knew it was a bear behind him. Whenever Percy Jackson flees the scene, he never knows what shape the thing after him might take. That’s one of the challenges of being chased by monsters. And …

Available Until Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Gods Among Us

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

The Gods Among Us

by Elizabeth M. Rees

What You Can’t See Might Harm You

Living in New York City, just under two miles from what became Ground Zero, I witnessed the events of 9/11 all too close to home. It was a scene to gladden the war-mongering heart of Ares, the Greek god of war. The smoky, fiery image of the Twin Towers was surely one lifted straight from Hades’ wildest dreams.

Although I am old enough to know Superman is make-believe and that James Bond is just a character in books and film, I actually found myself wondering, “Where are they?” Why didn’t Superman soar onto the scene and snatch a plane in each fist a second before they struck? Why had James Bond’s trademark derring-do failed when his valiant deeds were most crucial?

What a foolish part of me expected was larger-than-life action taken by one of our own pop culture demigods (Clark Kent) or heroes (Bond). What …

Available Until Monday, September 22nd, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The War between the States

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

The War between the States

by Claudia Gray

The online protests began around the time the makers of The Vampire Diaries cast Nina Dobrev as Elena Gilbert. Were fans of the book series worried that Dobrev couldn’t carry the central role? Nope. Were they advocating for another fan-favorite candidate? No again. There was no way Dobrev could play Elena—because Dobrev is a brunette, and in the original L.J. Smith books, Elena is a blonde.

It seems like a pretty small thing to get upset about, but when it comes to adapting a beloved book into film or television, fans understandably dread the inevitable changes. We’ve all been burned before by books that got “dumbed down” or turned into something unrecognizable from the story we originally loved. Even alterations as minor as a character’s hair color set off warning bells, making those of us who loved the books wonder just what else was about to get changed. But …

Available Until Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Kristina Speaks Up

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Flirtin' with the Monster

Kristina Speaks Up

by "Kristina"

I’m not exactly sure where to begin, but to describe where my heart was at the beginning and how it got lost along the way. Any way you look at things, I’d like it to be known that I’ve always wanted to do the right thing. Even when it came right down to destruction and carnage in my wake, I looked upon myself in a kind of helpless and detached way: a flailing passenger on a tumultuous runaway train destined to destroy everything in my path, knowing my own demise will be eminent upon encountering the slightest obstacle yet unable still to do anything but watch on autopilot and hang on for dear life.

I don’t blame anyone for my actions, or try to blame a bad childhood for my faults—in all actuality, I had a very privileged upbringing. I didn’t really see it as such, being your typical teenager, but …

Available Until Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

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