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, November 27th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

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The Panem Companion

Accountability for Acts of War in the Hunger Games

by V. Arrow

Although Mockingjay is easily the least popular of the three Hunger Games series novels, it is not due to any lack of intrigue, excitement, romance, world-building, or character development. Most commonly, this is attributed to the final novel’s lack of continued delineation between “good characters” like Gale and Peeta and “bad characters” such as President Snow. Mockingjay hinges on providing no good guys, bad guys, or morally satisfying conclusions to Panem’s–or Katniss’–story.

This is implicit from very early in the book, when Katniss first arrives in District 13 and learns that, rather than being a small, struggling, ragtag commune, District 13 is a thriving, strict, structured society. The Capitol’s citizens are ignorant of the horror of the Games; the citizens of District 13 know, understand, and purposely ignore the horror of the Games, so long as their lives are not affected. This similarity between ignorant compliance and willful negligence, and what …

Available Until Thursday, November 21st, 2019

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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, November 20th, 2019

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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, November 13th, 2019

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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, November 12th, 2019

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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 Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Cruithne Mythology and the House of Night

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Nyx in the House of Night

Cruithne Mythology and the House of Night

by P. C. Cast

First, let me explain why I use the term “Cruithne” and not “Celtic” when I speak of Scottish and Irish Clansfolk.

It may surprise readers to find out that the word most used to describe the culture and people of northwestern Europe, Celtic or Celt, is a modern word that only came into popular usage in the last century. The word comes from a Latin description of a small Spanish tribe that Roman scribes and historians used to create myths about a fictional race they called the Celts. These myths were so successful that, in today’s world, it’s now generally believed that the Celts were every bit as real as the Romans, when in truth a “Celtic race” only existed in fiction.

The Scots and Irish Gaelic culture we associate with the term today, though, is very real. It just has no connection to those original Roman myths. After the Second World War, with the movement of peoples around Europe, …

Available Until Thursday, October 31st, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

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Nyx in the House of Night

Introduction: Nyx in the House of Night

by P. C. Cast

Even before I hit national bestseller lists, the two questions readers asked me more than any other were: 1) Where do you get your ideas? And 2) How much research do you do?

Okay, the two answers go hand in hand. Research has always been the foundation of my ideas. I actually enjoy researching, and I like doing it old style– paging through giant history and humanities textbooks in a musty research section of a library. As I go through tomes on history and sociology and mythology, my mind starts creating stories and pictures: changing, shifting, modernizing, rewriting. This process has always seemed totally normal to me. Ancient mythological tragedy? Bah! Everyone dies tragically with no happily ever after in history? No way! For as long as I can remember I’ve revised mythology, created worlds based on history, and then made the stories read the way I wanted them to read–quite …

Available Until Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

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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, October 23rd, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Monster Recognition for Beginners

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Demigods and Monsters

Monster Recognition for Beginners

by Rosemary Clement-Moore

What would you do if you woke up one morning and found a satyr on your front porch, and he explained that he was going to take you to a special camp for people like you: half-god, half-human?

You might be tempted to laugh, thinking it’s a practical joke. Or maybe you’d think it was great. But if you’ve read the Percy Jackson books, you would also be seriously worried. Being a demigod may sound glamorous, but in Percy’s world, the child of a god can look forward to a life full of hardships and danger. Heroes, whether they are on a quest or just trying to live through the school year, must always stay on their toes and on the lookout for monsters.

Imagine you’re living in Percy’s world: Does that donut store on the corner make a shiver run down your spine? Does the popularity of a certain coffee chain …

Available Until Thursday, October 17th, 2019

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