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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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Waking Up the Trees

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Through the Wardrobe

Waking Up the Trees

by Susan Juby

The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained.

–Henry Beston

The just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam

–William Blake

The way I read him, C. S. Lewis was a tree-hugger. He was a don at Oxford and very dignified, so he probably skipped the tie-dye and the patchouli incense, but his Chronicles of Narnia, and especially Prince Caspian, suggest that he was as green as any modern day eco-freak. Prince Caspian can be seen as the fantasy equivalent of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth: it shows us that we human beings can become more responsible citizens of the planet Earth, if only we face the facts about the effects we have on our environment and let ourselves get a little closer …

Available Until Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Women Who Love Vampires Who Eat Women

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Women Who Love Vampires Who Eat Women

by Sarah Rees Brennan

Buffy Summers and Bella Swan. What do they have in common? I know, they have the same initials. Isn’t that weird?

Oh, and they both date vampires.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired in 1997, and Twilight was published in 2005. But in 1991, before these fanged giants appeared on the scene, a series called The Vampire Diaries was already wooing the teen set. And by the teen set, I mean me.

L.J. Smith was my Stephenie Meyer. When I was fourteen, I read The Vampire Diaries and immediately had to read all her other books, too. Vampires with diaries. Vampires fighting the apocalypse. Psychic vampires. You may well ask: what is a psychic vampire? He drank psychic power, I don’t know. What I do know is, he had to kiss her neck to drink her psychic power, and it was awesome. And it wasn’t cheating on her …

Available Until Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

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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, May 31st, 2017

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Divergent Thinking Book Launch + Giveaways!

By jennifer

Our Divergent anthology, Divergent Thinking: YA Authors on Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy, is officially launching next week. In fact, our introductory post about the book is already up. We’re pretty excited around Smart Pop Headquarters because we’re all big fans of the books and we’re eagerly awaiting the release of the movie in a few weeks. (Seriously, a Veronica Mars movie and a Divergent movie in the same month? March 2014, you’re not too shabby.)

Not only are we excited about the movie and about the release of Divergent Thinking, we’re extra excited about the week-long event we have planned around the release in partnership with the Divergent fansite community. Next week is officially:

dt-blogpost-graphic

We hope you’ll visit each of

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