Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Science, Technology and the Danger of Daemons

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Navigating the Golden Compass

Science, Technology and the Danger of Daemons

by Arthur B. Markman

I read Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy aloud to one of my sons when he was about nine. Needless to say, he loved it. When I told him that I was going to write an essay about the books, he asked me to say that the d¦mons in Lyra’s world are really the people’s consciences. I am a cognitive psychologist who studies the way people think, and so his suggestion was not totally off-base–though it also was not exactly what I wanted to write about.

What really interests me about the books is Pullman’s cautionary view of the pursuit of knowledge and the advance of technology. He does not display any particular love of academics with their elite institutions. He is particularly skeptical of technological advances arising from this knowledge, which can lead to disastrous outcomes both intended and unintended.

So, at first, it seemed that I would have to disappoint my …

Available Until Thursday, June 6th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Behind the House of Night Names

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Nyx in the House of Night

Behind the House of Night Names

by

What’s in a name? Well, after reading how P.C. Cast discovered and wove the
Cruithne myths into her tales, you now know that much time and research has
gone into creating the intricate plotlines of the House of Night novels. The
same is true for the names of the characters.

Below is an appendix of the more intriguing names in the series. You won’t
find everyone’s here; with some names, like Heath Luck or Erik Night, what
you see is what you get. But for others, we’ve untangled the historical, mythological,
and pop culture ties–intentional and incidental–that give these
characters’ monikers a little extra magic.

 

The Fledglings

Zoey Redbird

Zoey (Greek) life; Redbird in Cherokee myth, the Redbird is the

daughter of the Sun

In the House of Night . . .

 

During their first meeting in Marked, Nyx calls Zoey u-s-ti Do-tsu-wa, or “little
Redbird.” Redbird is also the last name …

Available Until Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: As Bad as They Wanna Be

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Demigods and Monsters - Expanded Edition

As Bad as They Wanna Be

by Hilary Wagner

I Heart Hades

I’ll admit, all the gods get decent marks on the “coolness scale,” but in my book, Hades is top dog, or top hellhound in his case. Sure, he’s a little bit on the brooding side and in need of a quality self-tanner, but still, the dude sports some serious swagger. Percy may have no love for the guy, but even he admits in The Lightning Thief that Hades was the only god he’d met so far that appeared godlike.Think about it–he’s the essence of cool, clad in black, long-haired and lanky, hanging out in his alternative night-clubby underworld palace. Sure, there’s that raging smell of sulfur and those bothersome bloodcurdling screams, but I’d imagine that’s easy for Hades to stomach with his glitzy goddess wife Persephone at his side. To boot, he’s richer than all get-out, making Zeus and Poseidon look like minor players on the who’s-who-of-godly-wealth list. …

Available Until Monday, June 3rd, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Emotional Pleasures of Reading Twilight

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The Psychology of Twilight

The Emotional Pleasures of Reading Twilight

by Peter Stromberg

The Twilight Saga is, simplified, a tale of the romance and adventures of a young woman and an immortal vampire she meets at school. Readers of the novels do not reject this premise out of hand–“regular old teenage girl falls for ancient vampire”–because by now we are so used to the strange rules of romantic tales that this seems completely plausible. Indeed, a stock convention of the contemporary romance novel is the dark, mysterious, and potentially dangerous male (and in fact vampires and romance have gone together like burgers and fries since the nineteenth century1). The potentially dangerous, inappropriate male character provides one of the essential ingredients of the formula: romantic stories require a seemingly insuperable barrier to the couple’s desire for union. The actual romance is generated by the description of the couple’s burning desire for one another, not tales of their enjoyable companionship walking the dog and picking …

Available Until Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Bent, Shattered, and Mended

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Bent, Shattered, and Mended

by Blythe Woolston

The Hunger Games trilogy gave me bad dreams. Actually, the books provided images, feelings, and ideas that my brain used as ingredients to brew up nightmares about children’s bones floating in a river of red dust and creepy lizard mutts lurking in the storm drain outside my front door. My brain is good at that sort of thing. But dreaming wasn’t the only business my brain was doing while I slept. It was also forming memories. That is why I remember Greasy Sae’s concoction of mouse meat and pig entrails, Prim’s untucked shirt, and, of course, Katniss, the girl on fire.

You probably remember why Katniss called Prim “little duck.” It’s a detail that’s important to the story. But–unless you share my personal fascination with mice and nasty-bad soup–Sae’s recipe isn’t stashed in long-term memory. That’s because every individual has a unique brain in charge of selecting information and forming memories. Depending on our previous experiences, we notice some things and ignore others. In the …

Available Until Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Beauty Smackdown

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Mind-Rain

Beauty Smackdown

by Janette Rallison

I belong to a book club. We generally spend fifteen minutes talking about the month’s book and the rest of the two hours talking about our kids and husbands. (Plus we consume large amounts of chocolate. This is why I go.) When we read Uglies, we spent the entire time talking not only about the book, but about the series as well. Like many of the women in the book club, I couldn’t stop at just one book. I had to find out what happened to Tally, David, Shay, and Zane. I also had to see who ended up pretty and whether or not it made them happy.

Science fiction authors are known for taking aspects of our society and magnifying them in their books, giving readers a chance to see what would happen if our present attitudes and practices were taken to the extreme. And as the titles suggest, one …

Available Until Monday, May 20th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: All That Glitters Is Not Hovery

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Mind-Rain

All That Glitters Is Not Hovery

by Lili Wilkinson

Teens are generally more interested in language than adults. They produce more slang, more poetry, more neologisms and nicknames, and memorize more song lyrics than their elders. They’re still acquiring language in ways that most adults aren’t: as a tool for self-definition.

–Scott Westerfeld1

Shay sometimes talked in a mysterious way, like she was quoting the lyrics of some band no one else listened to. (Uglies)

What if you had no control over your body? The way you looked, what you wore? How your brain worked? How would you still know that you were you?

When you see me, how do you know I’m me, and not someone else?

There’s how I look, where I live, what I wear. What I listen to, read, watch.

And there’s the way I talk.

I live in Melbourne, Australia. Here, when you blow off fifth period and go shopping, you’re wagging. When I give someone a …

Available Until Thursday, May 16th, 2019

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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?

Seriously?

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, May 15th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Someone to Watch Over Me

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Someone to Watch Over Me

by Lili Wilkinson

It must be very fragile, if a handful of berries can bring it down.
-Katniss Everdeen, Catching Fire
A few hundred years ago, if you did something wrong you were physically punished–beaten or even hanged, usually in front of a crowd. The whole point of this was to warn the people watching–if you do something bad, this could happen to you. Except it didn’t quite work. Because if you’re watching a starving thirteen-year-old girl being flogged for stealing a loaf of bread, you’re not thinking about what a terrible person she is, and how you’d better not ever do anything like that. You’re thinking, That poor girl. She only wanted something to eat. And the people who are doing the punishing don’t want you to feel sorry for her.

So in the nineteenth century things changed. Instead of physically hurting criminals, we started to put them in prison. And the thing about prison is, you’re always being …

Available Until Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Sweet Caroline

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A Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls

Sweet Caroline

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I’ve prepared a speech about Caroline Forbes. Please don’t interrupt me, because I have a lot to say on the matter, and I really want to get this right.

By this point, you may already be wondering why I would choose to write about Caroline when there are brooding vampires and butt-kicking heroines to be discussed and a dark and twisty Damon Salvatore to be pondered, adored, and dissected. The answer is simple: in a world of vampires, witches, and tragically beautiful girls who never asked to be loved nearly so well as they are, Caroline is an exception to nearly every rule–even the ones she tries desperately to follow. Tactless, shallow, materialistic, and quick to judge, our Miss Forbes is the latest in a long line of loveable TV bitcas, heir to the throne of One Tree Hill’s Brooke Davis, Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf, and …

Available Until Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

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