Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Elements of Life

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Elements of Life

by Bryan Lankford

Good evening! It’s good to see this many humans who are interested in vampyre culture. As it has been many years since I’ve spoken to a group this large who were not vampyres, I beg your indulgence if I misspeak somewhere along the line. Tonight we are going to be discussing rituals and the elements as they are used in vampyre worship.

Many of you have read about vampyre rituals in Zoey’s chronicles, but it may surprise you to know that our form of worship is not confined exclusively to the vampyre community. There are in fact many human groups who think and worship in a very similar fashion to vampyres. Human groups such as Wiccans, Pagans, Shamans, and witches all over the earth live and worship in a manner similar to us. They do not all worship our Goddess Nyx, nor do they use blood in ritual, but …

Available Until Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Divine Cat

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Divine Cat

by Ellen Steiber

I might as well admit my prejudice up front: I’ve been crazy about cats for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been lucky enough to live with them for most of my life. So one of the things that immediately drew me into the House of Night series was the cats. Cats everywhere, roaming freely, and always welcome in the dorms, cafeteria, stables, and even the classrooms–basically my idea of the perfect school. Then I was completely charmed by Nala, the sneezey, often grumpy, little cat who chooses Zoey for her own. P.C. and Kristin Cast clearly know and love their cats, and it’s a delight to see how they use them in these books. Not only do they create very real felines–sweet, moody, comforting, and impossible to predict or control–but they make creative use of some of the mythic and mystical lore that has been …

Available Until Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Eldest Does Not Equal Wisest

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

Eldest Does Not Equal Wisest

by Susan Vaught

Older and wiser. Why do these words slide together like an unchangeable equation that always adds up? Where is it written in permanent, glittering magical letters that more years of age must equal more wisdom? Not in the dictionary, that’s for sure.

In the Oxford English Dictionary wisdom is defined as “Capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct.”

American Heritage notes that wisdom is “The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.”

Despite the fact that age does not factor into the proper definition of the concept of wisdom, everyone in this world seems to believe that it does. So do the inhabitants of Christopher Paolini’s Alaga«sia. It’s up to a young Rider named Eragon and his even younger dragon Saphira to disrupt this math and save the land of Alaga«sia from the evil of King Galbatorix.

This isn’t easy, since most of the beings …

Available Until Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

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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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