Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Ladies of the Night, Unite!

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Ladies of the Night, Unite!

by Jon Skovron

The Vampire Diaries is a perfect example of an age-old battle between opposites. Not Good and Evil, of course. Neither the book nor the show is so didactic as to portray any character as purely Good or purely Evil. No, I’m talking about that other age-old conflict: Boy Vampires vs. Girl Vampires. The conflict began a long time ago, in a place kind of far away . . .

The year was 1816. Many called it the “Year without a Summer” because of a series of strange weather events in northern Europe that extended the rains of spring straight into fall. The earnest young English physician John William Polidori found himself in a Gothic villa near Geneva with his good friend and frequent traveling companion, the poet Lord Byron, and guests Claire Clairmont, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Since they were forced to stay indoors by the …

Available Until Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: She Is Goddess

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Nyx in the House of Night

She Is Goddess

by Yasmine Galenorn

She is Goddess. She is the moon overhead, full and ripe in the sky. She is
the ground under our feet, pungent and ripe with promise. She is the huntress
in the woods, fleet of foot, and the washerwoman at the stream, washing
bloody garments predicting deaths to come. She wears a triple face: Maiden,
Mother, Crone. She is gigantic–the 24,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf,
and she is lithe–Eos, the goddess of dawn. She is Kali, she is Artemis and
Athena and the Morrigan. As Gaia, the planet, she provides the sustenance
that keeps us alive. As Hel, she walks us into the Underworld at our death.
Eternal and cyclic, she is Goddess, the primal source of life and death.

Throughout history, the divine feminine has been worshiped and loved,
reviled and vilified, adored and feared. She has been exalted, and …

Available Until Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: My Dragon, Myself

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

My Dragon, Myself

by Kelly McClymer

Confession time: I love dragons, and have since the first time I heard of the mythical creatures who liked to kidnap princesses and test the princes who would rescue them. Only the best, bravest, smartest–smartest was always the key–could beat the evil, ravening, blazing beasts and free the princess. This appealed to me, maybe because I loved to doodle and the only recognizable thing I could doodle was a princess: billowing triangulation for a base, round head with long flowing hair, stick arms, and a pair of slippers peeping out under the skirt. Easy peasy. I must have doodled a million princesses in my time in school. Occasionally I’d try a dragon (theoretically a snake with scales and wings, right?). But my artistic talent was limited, so I always went back to princesses.

I can’t remember when I first learned about dragons, but I recall they were all vicious, cranky creatures …

Available Until Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist

by Mary Borsellino

There’s a piece of graffiti on a wall in Palestine. Over the years since it was painted, it’s been photographed by scores of travelers and journalists. It reads:

Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist. Keep fighting. Keep loving.

More than bombs, fire, guns or arrows, love is the most powerful weapon in the Hunger Games. It stirs and feeds the rebellion. It saves the doomed. It destroys the bereaved. And it gives even the most devastated survivors a reason to go on.

“Love” is not synonymous with “passion”. Hatred is also a passionate emotion. When I say “love” here, I mean compassion, loyalty, empathy, and the bonds of friendship, family, and romance. All these things are present in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. So too are greed, selfishness, hatred, and fear. That the protagonists are able to put stock in love, even while given so many reasons to hate, is what gives the Hunger Games a note of hope despite the …

Available Until Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Dangerous Dead

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Dangerous Dead

by John Edgar Browning

Reading the House of Night series is very much akin to reading Zoey’s favorite book, Dracula (1897), for like Bram Stoker’s novel, one will find also in the House of Night’s pages the subtle mingling of folklore and reality with popular fiction. It will probably come as little surprise to readers out there to learn that, when it comes to its vampyres, the House of Night is steeped in all three. However, which parts are “fiction” and which are “reality” may come as a shock and, in some cases, may even seem implausible.

Folklore has almost as many variations on the vampire as there are vampire films (at least 700 of which, or more, belong to Dracula or his semblance alone), and more often than not the two are confused for one another.

The House of Night series, and the various associations it conjures up, is no exception to this. However, the series’ treatment of the vampire mythology is surprisingly faithful to the folklore, …

Available Until Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

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A New Dawn

Romeo, Ripley, and Bella Swan

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Romeo and Juliet nearly killed my GPA in high school. This is difficult for me to admit, being not only a literature geek, but a theater major. Shakespeare wrote some of the world’s most beautiful verse for those tragic lovers from Verona, but it took me a long time to understand why the play is a classic. What does this have to do with Stephenie Meyer’s compulsively readable, engrossingly gothic tale of Bella Swan and the vampire she loves? Well, Twilight is a little like Romeo and Juliet, except one of the pair is already dead. Meyer nods to this by opening New Moon with a quote from the play. Within the first chapter, Bella and Edward are discussing the similarities (sort of) between their relationship and that of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, and I’m patting myself on the back for my masterful insight. It’s the parallels to Shakespeare’s play that …

Available Until Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Naturally Unnatural

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Mind-Rain

Naturally Unnatural

by Will Shetterly

Certainly nothing is unnatural that is not physically impossible.

–Richard Brinsley Sheridan

1. What are we?

In the Academy of Athens, Plato gave a famous definition of a human: “A featherless biped.” Everyone admired that until Diogenes of Sinope tossed a plucked chicken on the ground and said, “See, Plato’s human!” Plato quickly changed his definition to “A featherless biped–with broad nails.”

For centuries, that answer was as good as any. We had no choice in the matter. We were what nature made us: a mash-up of genetic material provided by a male and a female parent.

But what would we be if we could ignore nature and give ourselves feathers, four legs, or claws? Would we still be human? If what nature gives us is natural, would we become unnatural by changing ourselves? Would we become so different that we should be called nonhuman, ex-human, or formerly human? Might changing ourselves make …

Available Until Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Community in the Face of Tyranny

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Community in the Face of Tyranny

by Bree Despain

Being a tyrant is easy, really. All you have to do is take away people’s freedom. Many people in today’s society take certain liberties for granted: freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, free commerce, free press, and more simple freedoms such as travel and easy communication–all things that make a community strong and viable. But what if in one swift movement all of these liberties were taken away? That’s what the Capitol did to the districts of Panem. After the first unsuccessful rebellion of the districts against the Capitol seventy-five years ago, the Capitol retaliated by taking every measure it could to destroy the feeling of community within the districts and between the districts, controlling and isolating people in order to keep them from rebelling again.

The most literal meaning of community is “to give among each other.” Essentially, to share something amongst a group–whether that’s information (communication), goods, common goals, …

Available Until Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: A Glossary of Ancient Greek Myth

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Demigods and Monsters

A Glossary of Ancient Greek Myth

by Nigel Rodgers

A

Achilles

Son of Peleus and the nymph Thetis. When Achilles was born, Thetis held him by one foot and dipped him into the River Styx in an attempt to make him immortal. She almost succeeded; only the spot on his heel by which she held him while he was immersed remained a point of vulnerability–the origin of the term Achilles’ heel, meaning a weakness. Aside from the spot on his heel, Achilles was completely invincible. When he was older, his father sent him to be raised by Chiron the Centaur on Mount Pelion. He is most famous for being a great warrior and for his participation in the Trojan War. He fought on the side of the Greeks under their leader, Agamemnon, after his best friend, Patroclus, was killed. He slew Prince Hector in battle before he himself was killed by an arrow Paris, the Trojan prince, shot at his heel.

(See …

Available Until Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Reading by Flashlight

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Navigating the Golden Compass

Reading by Flashlight

by Kay Kenyon

Hey, what’s with this Philip Pullman hijacking fantastic literature and taking a gazillion readers along for the ride? Whether among young readers or adults, Pullman’s trilogy is sending people into a buying– and reading–frenzy. Proclaimed by some reviewers as an adult read worthy of our best literature, His Dark Materials is nothing less than a smashing commercial and artistic success.

Literary acclaim, best seller lists . . . all for a young adult story filled with magic and strange new worlds. It isn’t fair! complain my fellow science fiction and fantasy writers. We do all this stuff, and languish in what amounts to a literary ghetto. What is so different about this fantasy story?

Based on first impressions I am tempted to say, not much. We writers of speculative fiction have covered Pullman’s fictional ground before, and often as well.

I can hear the protests: Aren’t you forgetting Pullman’s lucid prose, the originality …

Available Until Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

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