Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Bent, Shattered, and Mended

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Bent, Shattered, and Mended

by Blythe Woolston

The Hunger Games trilogy gave me bad dreams. Actually, the books provided images, feelings, and ideas that my brain used as ingredients to brew up nightmares about children’s bones floating in a river of red dust and creepy lizard mutts lurking in the storm drain outside my front door. My brain is good at that sort of thing. But dreaming wasn’t the only business my brain was doing while I slept. It was also forming memories. That is why I remember Greasy Sae’s concoction of mouse meat and pig entrails, Prim’s untucked shirt, and, of course, Katniss, the girl on fire.

You probably remember why Katniss called Prim “little duck.” It’s a detail that’s important to the story. But–unless you share my personal fascination with mice and nasty-bad soup–Sae’s recipe isn’t stashed in long-term memory. That’s because every individual has a unique brain in charge of selecting information and forming memories. Depending on our previous experiences, we notice some things and ignore others. In the …

Available Until Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Eeny Meeny Miney Mo(m)

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Demigods and Monsters

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo(m)

by Jenny Han

The lives of half-bloods in Greek mythology usually end in blood and guts and fire–we’re talking vengeful gods, three-headed dogs, monsters, ancient curses. It’s all very dangerous and life threaten-y. If you were the child of a really powerful god like Percy is, you’d have to stay at Camp Half-Blood all year long, for fear of attracting monsters in the real world. You could never really go back home. Your life would be forever changed. If not over. If you’re lucky.

And yet . . . the thought of having that powerful blood surging through you, of having access to a whole other kind of magical world, one that defies reason and gravity, even–it might just be worth it. I know I for one would just love a taste of ambrosia and nectar. I’d jump at the chance to learn Ancient Greek, practice archery, take swordfighting lessons, play Capture the Flag …

Available Until Friday, January 27th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reimagining "Magic City"

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Nyx in the House of Night

Reimagining "Magic City"

by Amy H. Sturgis

My own journey to the House of Night began with an email from my little sister, Margret. She explained that I should read–no, had to read–the novels by P.C. and Kristin Cast. While I appreciated her recommendation, I wasn’t exactly in the market for new titles to enjoy. My “to read” stack already was well out of hand.

Then Margret changed my mind with one simple sentence: “The books are set in Tulsa.”

The next thing I knew, I was reading the opening scene of the first book, in which a vampyre Tracker Marks Zoey Montgomery in the hall of her school and my alma mater, South Intermediate High School, in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow. I was hooked.

Of course, familiarity has its own charm. Like Zoey, I’ve shopped at Utica Square, trusted meteorologist Travis Meyer for the day’s weather forecast, and even taken a science class from Mr. Wise, and this helped me to feel an immediate identification with the young …

Available Until Thursday, January 26th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Percy Jackson and the Lords of Death

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

Percy Jackson and the Lords of Death

by J&P Voelkel

Once Percy Jackson has vanquished all the foes that Greek and Roman myths can throw at him, what’s next? Sure, his old adversaries could re-materialize and attack at any moment, but like a video game you’ve already beaten, the second time around would be so much ancient history. Yawn.

And what’s the point of spending all your summers at Camp Half-Blood if you have no new challenges to train for? There are only so many sword practices, mock battles, and games of Capture the Flag you can play before your hyperactive demigod brain starts itching for some real-life action.

So it seems like only a matter of time before Percy would be hounding the Oracle for a new prophecy and begging Chiron for a new mission to sink his celestial bronze sword into.

Something huge. Something different.

Something extraordinary.

Something even a battle-hardened demigod has never faced before.

No problem.

It’s a big world out there and …

Available Until Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Dear Aunt Charlotte

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A New Dawn

Dear Aunt Charlotte

by Cassandra Clare

Dear Aunt Charlotte,

I have a feeling this is going to be a very unusual sort of letter. You see my problem isn’t a real problem; it’s fictional. I’ve always been the sort of girl who gets far too obsessed with books, and right now I’m obsessed with the Twilight series. You may have heard of it–it’s the story of Bella, a teenage girl forced to choose between two wonderful guys: her best friend Jacob and her boyfriend Edward.

Edward is romantic and wonderful and says things like, “Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night.” He even wanted to pay for her to go to college. Jacob is kind and strong and capable of total devotion. There’s something else I should mention: Edward is a vampire, and Jacob is a werewolf, so of course for a long time they hated each other, and not just because of Bella. Even …

Available Until Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

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

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Demigods and Monsters

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, January 11th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Monster Recognition for Beginners

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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 Monday, January 9th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

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The Panem Companion

Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

by V. Arrow

Although Mockingjay is easily the least popular of the three Hunger Games series novels, it is not due to any lack of intrigue, excitement, romance, world-building, or character development. Most commonly, this is attributed to the final novel’s lack of continued delineation between “good characters” like Gale and Peeta and “bad characters” such as President Snow. Mockingjay hinges on providing no good guys, bad guys, or morally satisfying conclusions to Panem’s–or Katniss’–story.

This is implicit from very early in the book, when Katniss first arrives in District 13 and learns that, rather than being a small, struggling, ragtag commune, District 13 is a thriving, strict, structured society. The Capitol’s citizens are ignorant of the horror of the Games; the citizens of District 13 know, understand, and purposely ignore the horror of the Games, so long as their lives are not affected. This similarity between ignorant compliance and willful negligence, and what …

Available Until Wednesday, January 4th, 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 Thursday, December 29th, 2016

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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 Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

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