Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Team Shay

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Mind-Rain

Team Shay

by Diana Peterfreund

“Team David or Team Zane?” was a popular question on Westerfansites and forums (and even an Amazon Poll) during the span of the Uglies series’s initial release. Readers enthusiastically debated whether Tally should be romantically linked with David, the self-sufficient, wild-born young man who first leads her into the Smoke, who teaches her how to survive in the wilderness, and who tells her the truth about her not-so-pretty world; or Zane, the charismatic, enigmatic leader of the New Pretty Town clique the Crims, the almost too “extreme” pretty who snaps Tally out of the empty-headed, pretty mindset, who is brave enough to share with her the experimental cure (though it costs him his brain), and who is willing to do anything, absolutely anything, to make up for chickening out and not leaving the city when he was still an ugly.

David or Zane? David or Zane? What love story in the …

Available Until Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Don't Be Fooled by that Noble Chin: Stefan Sucks

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Don't Be Fooled by that Noble Chin: Stefan Sucks

by Kiersten White

Ah, Stefan Salvatore. That hair! That jaw! Those soulful green eyes that spend absurd amounts of time per episode directing agonized and/or lustful looks toward the object of his love and obsession! He keeps a journal, he broods, he sheds manly tears, he (generally) doesn’t drink human blood. He is a paragon of vampire virtue and a shining example of what a boyfriend should be.

Except, not so much. And I’m not talking about how, when force-fed human blood, he went all crazy-junkie on us for a few episodes. That I can forgive. He’s a vampire, after all, and he can’t help being drawn to blood. No, it’s the rest of the time that Stefan creeps me out. Forget lovely murderous sociopath Damon–it’s Stefan who is the true villain of Mystic Falls. He uses guilt as a tool for manipulation (of himself and others) and, more dangerously, as an excuse to …

Available Until Monday, October 9th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Two Princes

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Mind-Rain

Two Princes

by Sarah Beth Durst

“How lucky is that?” Tally muttered to herself. “Sleeping Beauty with two princes. What was she supposed to do? Choose between David and Zane?”

–Pretties

David or Zane?

Who would you choose?

Who should Tally have chosen?

I think that one of the most awesome things about Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series is that it’s not obvious which guy is best for Tally. Okay, yeah, in the end, Tally’s best choice is the not-dead guy, but ignoring that tiny detail. . . . Both are decent guys. Both care about her, and she cares about both of them. And they like each other. It’s a true love triangle. Seriously bubbly.

But one of them must be her true Prince Charming, right? So which one? I have been giving this a lot of thought, and I’ve decided that the best way to judge them is to subject them both to the indignities of a boyfriend quiz, …

Available Until Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A New Eve

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Navigating the Golden Compass

A New Eve

by Dave Hodgson

Alongside the adventures, the love story, the battles and the fantasy, His Dark Materials holds a crucial prophecy: Lyra is to become the new Eve. This Eve’s purpose is not made fully clear, except that she should restore the Dust and begin to build a “Republic of Heaven.” But how will the members of this new republic behave? Like the previous regent of heaven who kept his predecessor alive in a box and those who endeavoured to destroy Dust, calling it “sin”? Clearly not. In fiction it’s easy to delineate between good and evil. At the end of The Amber Spyglass we’re left with the confidence that if Lyra succeeds she will begin a new direction for Homo sapiens: a new lifestyle that better values biodiversity, that harvests resources more sustainably and that acts unselfishly for the benefit of others.

With these optimistic thoughts we can all retire to our normal …

Available Until Thursday, September 28th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: By Their Marks You Shall Know Them

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Nyx in the House of Night

By Their Marks You Shall Know Them

by Jana Oliver

What exactly possessed primitive humans to inflict marks on their skin is hard to fathom. Perhaps one of the tribesmen had inadvertently gotten some dirt or ashes in a wound and once it healed, it remained discolored. While sitting around the fire swapping tales, his buddies might have made note of this new thing. With a little experimentation, they realized that if they opened a fresh wound, charred a stick, and buried the black residue inside the slice, the result was a tattoo. Proof that humans are endlessly inventive when they’re bored.

Thousands of years later we have a story about a high school girl who is having a rough day: while Zoey Montgomery is trying to cough her lungs out, her best friend is prattling on about Z’s drunken “almost” boyfriend and a football game. That all becomes irrelevant when Zoey spies the undead guy standing next to …

Available Until Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Panem et Circenses

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Panem et Circenses

by Carrie Ryan

In the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins takes our obsession with Reality TV and extends it to the most horrifying ends: a society that views kids killing kids as entertainment. It’s easy to find this an uncomfortable premise–to turn our noses up and say that while we may enjoy Survivor or Big Brother every now and again, we’d never let society slip to such levels. However, there’s also a deeper, more difficult message in the Hunger Games series: the extent to which media can be manipulated as a means of controlling the populace and how we as viewers have abdicated any agency in the process.

This then leads to an even more troubling aspect of the trilogy: our complicity in said message. But for the viewers’ participation, the Hunger Games would not exist in the same way that, but for our tuning in, Reality TV wouldn’t exist. …

Available Until Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: How Panem Came to Be

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The Panem Companion

How Panem Came to Be

by V. Arrow

Although conjectures about geological cataclysm would explain the physical borders–perhaps even the provincial organization–of Panem, its true dystopian horror comes from a cataclysm of a more anthropogenic nature. Panem is post-apocalyptic because of the end of our known world geography, but it is dystopian because of its political, socioeconomic, and cultural collapse and the ways it is dealt with by the Capitol. After all, it isn’t centralized government like the Capitol’s or geographically disparate states that is frightening; it is the operation of the Hunger Games, a system that targets its disenfranchised for death. Although employing the Hunger Games as reparations for civil war is unjust enough, the Games’ enforcement of a society built on institutional classism–and, we can infer from the text, racism–is truly horrifying. (Racism and classism will be discussed in chapters three and four.) Shifting geography alone could not cause this kind of catastrophic change in ideology–so …

Available Until Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: To Bite, or Not to Bite; That is the Question

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A New Dawn

To Bite, or Not to Bite; That is the Question

by Janette Rallison

What’s your definition of a bad day? A fight with a friend? A speeding ticket? How about being attacked by a vampire and painfully turned into the undead, then realizing you must wander for eternity fighting off a craving to kill people? Yeah, that would pretty much be a bad day.

Carlisle, the leader of the Cullen clan of vampires had this bad day and (we can assume) many other bad days that followed. Stephenie Meyer doesn’t skimp when dishing out problems for her characters. Seriously, if you were Cinderella and could choose someone to be your fairy godmother, you wouldn’t want it to be Stephenie Meyer. Sure, she could come up with the ultimate Prince Charming to take you to the ball, but he might kill you afterward.

Anyway, this particular bad day of Carlisle’s, when he was attacked and transformed into a vampire, started the ball rolling for the Twilight …

Available Until Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Secret's Out

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Flirtin' with the Monster

The Secret's Out

by Terri Clark

We who have a voice must speak for the voiceless.

–Archbishop Oscar Romero

Ellen Hopkins has a voice, one that speaks in rhythm and verse, with truth and grit. She speaks for the voiceless, revealing their tragedies, exposing their complex personal layers, whispering their secrets. In lyrical tones and sparse but striking words she delves into the darkness many real-life teens find themselves in. She tells the stories they hide from or hold tight to their chests.

The endings of those stories aren’t always happy, but then again neither is reality. Because of this Ellen refuses to tie things up with a perfect, pretty bow. When a reader fussed about her endings on a message board, Ellen responded by saying, “Life rarely ties everything up nicely, and while often novels do, those feel-good endings are contrived. I’d rather give you honesty.”

And that she does.

Her books tackle tough, often taboo, topics like …

Available Until Friday, September 8th, 2017

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: What Does That Deviant Wench Think She's Doing? Or, Shadowhunters Gone Wild

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

What Does That Deviant Wench Think She's Doing? Or, Shadowhunters Gone Wild

by Sarah Rees Brennan

“So, technically, even though Jace isn’t actually related to you, you have kissed your brother.”

–Simon Lewis in City of Glass, telling it like it is

I hope, with this saucy title, that everyone has flipped right from the table of contents to this essay. Hi, guys! Almost every other essay will be more coherent and intelligent than this one, but if you want dirty jokes, you have come to the right place. Welcome to Sarah’s School of Deviant Literary Analysis, where everyone gets to canoodle, including Magnus Bane’s magnificent self.

And since I invoked Magnus Bane’s name because I was shamelessly cribbing off a phrase he used in City of Bones (nobody canoodles in his bedroom but his magnificent self), let’s begin my list of shameless debauchees (otherwise known as Cassandra Clare’s cast of characters) with a look at Magnus: warlock, Downworlder, fashion icon. Though the angel Raziel says that …

Available Until Thursday, September 7th, 2017

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