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, February 7th, 2018

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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 31st, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Would You Want to Be One of Artemis's Hunters?

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Demigods and Monsters

Would You Want to Be One of Artemis's Hunters?

by Carolyn MacCullough

If given the option of eternal youth, my guess is that nine out of ten women would take it. After all, Oil of Olay, Revlon, and Lanc´me, among others, have spent millions of dollars in ad campaigns trying to convince us that we can purchase it in just one small bottle. As a society, we practically fetishize youth, craving that unlined skin and endless exuberance and effervescent energy that just seems to ooze from the pores of the very young. Most women strive to preserveyouth in even the smallest of ways, no matter how many times we steel ourselves to the idea of aging gracefully.

So what if someone made you an offer you thought you couldn’t refuse? An offer that seemed too good to be true (as most offers like this are)? What if Artemis herself, Greek goddess extraordinaire (also known as Diana if you happen to be Roman), mistress …

Available Until Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: A New Dawn

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A New Dawn

Introduction: A New Dawn

by Ellen Hopkins

Tread carefully, dear readers. There’s a new vampire in town, and Edward Cullen is so not your mother’s vampire. Okay, he does have a few things in common with more classic bloodsuckers like Anne Rice’s Lestat. He’s cultured. Insanely alluring. Downright dazzlingly sexy. Drop-dead gorgeous, in fact. (Sorry, couldn’t help the double entendre, and you’ll find more in this book. Authors just love stuff like that.) But what makes Edward so damn addictive is not his undeadness. It’s his abiding humanity. Okay, confession. I was at first dumbfounded by the success of Twilight and its sequels, Eclipse, New Moon, and Breaking Dawn. Oh, I’ve always understood the lure of the vampire. For many years I was, in fact, a dedicated horror reader. Stephen King and Dean Koontz were always at the top of my reading lists, along with classic authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley. When …

Available Until Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Family Life in Panem

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The Panem Companion

Family Life in Panem

by V. Arrow

The most important things in Katniss’ life are survival and family, perhaps not in that order. The entire journey of the Hunger Games series begins because of Katniss’ devotion to Prim and her sense of duty to (and love for) family. However, as she tells the reader, “family devotion only goes so far for most people [in Panem] on reaping day.”THG31

A total of 1,776 children (73 Games — 24 tributes each, plus an additional 24 tributes in the Fiftieth Hunger Games) have been a part of the Hunger Games before Katniss volunteers in Prim’s place, and from the way Katniss tells it, very few–if any–have been spared their fate by family members before. Indeed, most of the nuclear families that we as readers encounter through the series are deeply dysfunctional and unhappy, and it’s hard to imagine them sacrificing so much for each other. What do we know about what …

Available Until Monday, January 15th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: It's All in the Family

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The Psychology of Twilight

It's All in the Family

by Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr., Ph.D.

Most people view their family as the most important thing in their life. Common aphorisms such as “know your roots” and “blood is thicker than water” emphasize the foundational nature of family and the continuing role it plays in our lives. Why is family so key in our lives? The world-renowned family therapist Salvador Minuchin, whose work has largely focused on the overall structure and function of family, wrote in his book Families and Family Therapy: “In all cultures, the family imprints its members with selfhood. Human experience of identity has two elements; a sense of belonging and a sense of being separate. The laboratory in which these ingredients are mixed and dispensed is the family, the matrix of identity.”

The Twilight Saga chronicles Bella’s and Edward’s struggles to find both a sense of belonging and a sense of individual identity as they navigate their way through adolescence and into adulthood, …

Available Until Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Destination: Forks, Washington

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A New Dawn

Destination: Forks, Washington

by Cara Lockwood

I don’t like road trips. And I’ll tell you why.

Sure, there’s the whole being trapped in a car for hours eating Big Macs for days thing, while your legs go numb and you start wondering if it’s possible to die of boredom.

But for me it’s more than that.

I could handle death by French fry. What I can’t handle is driving by all those small towns.

Some people love small towns. My stepdad grew up on a farm, and he loves taking those winding back roads in the country–the ones lined with cows on either side, and green hills and trees, that have blinking red lights because there’s not enough traffic for a single stoplight. Even my mom likes shopping in small towns. She says she finds good antiques there.

But any time I get away from the city and I find myself far from a major highway on one of those two-lane …

Available Until Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Not So Weird Science

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Not So Weird Science

by Cara Lockwood

I will admit right now that I am entirely too critical of most sci-fi. I’m the one sitting in the movie theater grumbling, “that could never happen.” Or, more concisely, I’ll just say: “Seriously?”

Could there be some crazy disease somewhere in a lab that would turn the entire planet into brain-eating zombies or sunlight-fearing vampires? No way. Beefing up shark brains to make them super-smart predators? I don’t think so. Crazed prehistoric- sized piranhas that will devour anybody with an inflatable floatie and a cooler? Please. They want us to believe this stuff?

Like take the insane DNA-spliced mutant monsters that make terrifying cameos throughout the Hunger Games. I’m supposed to believe that one day we could be ripped apart by mutant wolves with tribute eyes? Stung by poisonous and relentless tracker jackers? Or get devoured by giant lizard men?


As it turns out . . . maybe so.

Not only do muttations–“mutts” for short–already exist in our world, but the stuff real scientists are …

Available Until Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Worshipping the Female Deity

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Nyx in the House of Night

Worshipping the Female Deity

by Christine Zika

Before I was P.C. Cast’s editor on her Goddess Summoning romances, I once worked with three female mystics on a self-help book for women. During one of our conversations, the authors pointed out that a lot of church rituals–burning incense, the use of flowers, and candle-lighting–had origins in Pagan and polytheistic traditions.

Now, I’m Greek Orthodox, a branch of Christianity similar to Catholicism that is heavy on tradition, ritual, and symbolism. So while I take pride in my faith, I also take pride in my ethnic roots, which stretch back to the ancient Greeks and their beliefs in the gods and goddesses of Olympus. When I worked with P.C., I was always amused when she would call or write to me and address me as “Goddess Editor.” Each of the books in the Goddess Summoning series (Goddess of the Sea, Goddess of the Rose, Goddess of Love, etc.) revolved around an everyday woman who is transformed when …

Available Until Thursday, December 21st, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

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Through the Wardrobe

Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan

by Deb Caletti

When I was in the sixth grade, I loaned my copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Lisa Miller and never got it back. Not that I hold a grudge. Lisa had a surgery that required breaking both her legs and resetting them, putting her in a wheelchair for the good part of a year. Flimsy excuse, yes? I mean, this was my beloved and cherished copy, part of the ENTIRE SET of the Chronicles of Narnia that my parents had given me for Christmas when I was ten. An entire set of Narnia books without The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe–it’s like an entire set of dishes without the, well, dishes.

I still remember getting those books. For some reason, my mother had hidden them, unwrapped, inside a set of decorative drums that were underneath the Christmas tree. One day I was messing around, as …

Available Until Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

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